Nets-Bucks Preview

Even without arguably their best player, the Milwaukee Bucks are
confident they can finish the regular season on a positive note and
gain some momentum heading into the playoffs.

After clinching their first postseason berth in four years, the
Bucks try for a fifth straight victory over the lowly New Jersey
Nets on Wednesday night at the Bradley Center.

John Salmons scored 26 points against his former team as
Milwaukee (43-34) won 79-74 at Chicago on Tuesday to clinch its
first playoff appearance since 2006. The Bucks are tied with Miami
for fifth in the Eastern Conference.

“We got that out of the way. We’re in there. It feels good to
clinch a spot,” Salmons said.

Tuesday’s contest was Milwaukee’s first since center Andrew
Bogut suffered various injuries after a hard fall during a 107-98
home win over Phoenix on Saturday.

A former No. 1 overall pick, Bogut averaged 15.9 points, 10.2
rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game during a breakout season, but is
expected to need six weeks to recover after undergoing surgery
Monday to repair a broken hand. He also sprained a wrist and
dislocated an elbow on the play.

The Bucks weren’t at their best without their main post presence
Tuesday, shooting 36.4 percent. However, they forced 16 turnovers
and held the Bulls to 43.2 percent shooting.

“We had to get used to not having him to dump it in to,”
Salmons said. “We still have to grow. We still have to learn.
(Tuesday) was a good start.”

With a playoff spot secured, Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles has
five games left to find a lineup and rotation that works without
Bogut.

“You’d like a little more time to kind of tinker with things,
and we don’t have that,” Skiles said. “It’s just the nature of
what it is. Obviously, each guy’s got to do a little bit
more.”

Salmons has certainly done his part, averaging 20.2 points in 25
games since the Bucks acquired him in a trade with Chicago. He’s
topped 30 points in two of his last seven games against New
Jersey.

Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Nets (11-66) averaged 79.3
points while losing their previous three meeting with the Bucks
this season.

Despite a 109-99 loss at Washington on Sunday, New Jersey has
won four of seven overall to guarantee it won’t finish with the
worst record in NBA history.

Against the Wizards, Brook Lopez and Devin Harris each had 22
points for the Nets, who are 4-34 on the road this season.

A Milwaukee native, Harris had 27 points and nine assists in a
97-77 home loss to the Bucks on Feb. 10. However, he’s averaging
9.2 points on 33.3 percent shooting in six career games in his
hometown.

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored a career-high 31 points, but the
Nets shot 38.5 points in a 99-85 loss at Milwaukee on Nov. 18.