A late surge kept the Milwaukee Bucks from extending their longest losing streak of the season and helped them maintain their recent success at home.
To keep heading in the right direction, they’ll have to earn a rare win over the playoff-contending New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
Milwaukee (33-29) avoided a fifth consecutive defeat by scoring nine of the game’s final 11 points in a 91-85 victory over Washington. Khris Middleton hit a key 3-pointer with 40.8 seconds left for the last of his career-high 30 points and paced the Bucks in their return from a fruitless four-game Western trip.
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Milwaukee’s victory was also just its second in eight games but ninth in the last 10 home contests and put it within 1 1/2 games of the Wizards for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We’re going through the process like any young team. We’re not going to win all 82. We have to learn from each game win or lose. That (road) trip, we learned a lot about ourselves," coach Jason Kidd said. "Being one of the youngest teams in the league, as players you have to learn. Sometimes, it’s learning through losing. Sometimes it’s learning through winning."
A matchup with a contending team from the West could provide some more training. The Pelicans (34-29) are vying with Oklahoma City and Phoenix for that conference’s final playoff spot.
New Orleans aided its cause with a 95-89 win over Memphis on Saturday and got some help via the Suns’ 89-79 loss in Cleveland. Tyreke Evans led the way with 26 points in the victory over the Southwest Division leaders and helped the Pelicans avoid back-to-back defeats.
They erased a 12-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Grizzlies 33-17 in the third quarter. New Orleans also climbed out of an early double-digit hole in an 88-85 victory over Detroit on Wednesday.
"I like the way that we’re coming back and never giving up," forward Quincy Pondexter said. "A lot of teams lay down when they get punched in the mouth like that, but we’re a resilient group."
New Orleans has alternated losses and wins in its last four games after claiming a season-high five in a row. The Pelicans have taken four of six on the road.
They’ve won six of eight in Milwaukee and 14 of 16 overall against the Bucks, but haven’t faced them in a little more than a year. New Orleans took its most recent victory in the series March 7, 2014, and will face Milwaukee again March 17 at home.
Pelicans star Anthony Davis, averaging 30.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in his three games since returning from a shoulder injury, had 29 points and 14 boards in the latest game against Milwaukee.
Evans is averaging 20.0 in his last five versus the Bucks. The Pelicans have won nine of 12 since Dec. 30 when Evans scores at least 20.
Middleton, averaging 17.5 points in his last 15 games, scored 25 on 10-of-17 shooting in the loss to New Orleans last March.