Trail Blazers-Bucks Preview
As the owner of the NBA's longest active losing streak, the last thing the Milwaukee Bucks want to see on the schedule is a matchup against the team with the league's longest active winning streak.
The Bucks look to avoid a sixth straight loss on Wednesday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers, winners of seven consecutive games.
Since beating Cleveland on Nov. 6, Milwaukee (2-7) has been outscored by an average of 14.8 points during a five-game skid, as injuries have limited its depth.
''We'll be a lot better for sure,'' said guard O.J. Mayo, who leads Milwaukee in scoring at 18.4 points per game. ''Heck yeah, man. As we get more and more healthy, more of the seasoned guys back in, it'll strengthen our first unit.''
Mayo has scored 20 or more points four times during the losing streak, but has rarely had support from the rest of the roster. The Bucks are averaging just 51.8 points from their first five, which ranks 29th in the league. Forward Caron Butler, who was supposed to be one of the team's top scoring options this season alongside Mayo, is shooting a career-low 36.0 percent and has missed the last two games because of a left shoulder sprain.
Milwaukee was tied with Oklahoma City at halftime on Saturday, but was outscored by 13 in the game's final 24 minutes, resulting in a 92-79 loss. Mayo had 22 points, but no other Bucks player scored more than 14. The starters shot 33.3 percent and team shot 22.2 percent in the fourth quarter.
"The effort was there, I can't fault the effort with this team. They're fighting," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "I think these guys are laying it out on the line, but we just couldn't get over the hump."
It could be tough to get over the hump against a Trail Blazers team looking to sweep a four-game Eastern Conference road trip.
While the Bucks are averaging 85.0 points during their skid, Portland is averaging 111.7 points in its last three games.
The Trail Blazers (9-2) knocked off Brooklyn 108-98 on Monday. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 27 points, swingman Wesley Matthews added a season-high 24 and guard Damian Lillard chipped in with 19 points and nine assists.
''This team is good. Guys can get going,'' said Aldridge, who is averaging 26.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in his last three games.
Portland allowed 40 first-quarter points, but then locked down defensively, outscoring the Nets in each of the final three periods. Coach Terry Stotts said the game was an indication of his team's will, and impressed that they didn't throw in the towel after being down 11 so early in the game.
"I thought it was a testament to our guys as far as how they competed," Stotts said. "They never lost confidence. They never stopped competing. They kept chipping away at it and when you have that belief that you can do something it just makes it that much easier."
The Bucks have won four straight against the Trail Blazers, and have scored more than 100 points in each of those games. In the last two meetings at the Bradley Center, the Bucks have won by an average of 14.5 points.