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.