NBA

Wizards-Bucks Preview

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The Milwaukee Bucks have made big strides over the last two weeks and look like a legitimate playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.

Another loss to the Washington Wizards, though, would be a big step back.

The Bucks try to avoid a third straight defeat to the Wizards when the teams meet at the Bradley Center on Wednesday.

Milwaukee (30-29), which has not made the playoffs since 2006, is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference - one game behind fifth-place Toronto. The Bucks have surged in the standings by going 12-4 in their last 16, with Sunday's 106-102 loss at Atlanta snapping a six-game win streak.

The Bucks held opponents to 86.0 points per game during the winning streak. However, they allowed the Hawks to go on a 9-0 run in overtime after Milwaukee took a 97-92 lead with 3:52 remaining in the extra period.

"That's where we've got to be smarter than that," coach Scott Skiles said. "We made two, three or four mistakes that were really costly right there. We played good enough to win. We had the chances to win. We just didn't get the win."

John Salmons had another impressive game for Milwaukee, finishing with a season-high 32 points. Salmons has averaged 20.1 points since joining the Bucks in a trade with Chicago, where he averaged 12.7 points.

The Bucks will look to Salmons to help them get their first win of the season against Washington. Milwaukee has dropped both meetings with the Wizards, allowing 106.5 points. The Bucks shot 40.0 percent in those games.

It should help that the Bucks won't have to face Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison, who combined for 48 points in the Wizards' 109-97 win at Milwaukee on Dec. 23. The two were traded last month.

Milwaukee will, however, have to face the red-hot Andray Blatche.

Blatche scored a career-high 36 points in an 89-85 victory over New Jersey on Sunday. Despite that effort, it took two jumpers in the final 44 seconds by Randy Foye for the Wizards (21-36) to defeat the worst team in the NBA.

Washington avoided a third straight loss and has won four of seven, in large part because of Blatche, who has averaged 26.6 points over that span. He is scoring 11.1 points per game on the season.

"I'm so excited about the way things are going for me," Blatche said. "Things are starting to pan out the way I had planned when I came into the league. It's like a dream come true for me. I just want to continue to help the organization win games."

Blatche wasn't much of a factor in Washington's two wins over Milwaukee, playing a combined 31 minutes and scoring 15 points.

Tagged: Cavaliers, Mavericks, Bucks, Wizards, Antawn Jamison, John Salmons, Caron Butler, Andray Blatche, Randy Foye

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