Bucks top Wizards, inch closer to playoff spot
WASHINGTON (AP) — Brandon Jennings put up 17 of his 19 points in the third quarter. All 10 of Shaun Livingston’s points came in the fourth, when he went 5 for 5 from the floor. Ekpe Udoh, in just his 10th game with the Bucks, chipped in 15 points, eight rebounds and a career-high five assists.
It’s time for Milwaukee to make a move if they’re going to grab the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, especially now that they’ve hit a favorable stretch in the schedule. Monday night’s everybody-chip-in 112-98 win over the Washington Wizards was a promising first step.
The win moved the Bucks within two games of the eighth-place New York Knicks with a five-game homestand on tap. The next three opponents — Cleveland, Charlotte and Portland — have losing records. Then comes Oklahoma City and a big-time showdown with the Knicks.
“If you want to talk about what’s the most important games, I’d have to say all five of these at home — just from the fact that we’ve been struggling at home lately,” Jennings said. “But a good thing is we’ll be back at home, be able to rest in our home bed, do our regular thing that we do every day. Hopefully that can give us a lot of confidence.”
Monta Ellis, also in his 10th game since joining the team after a trade-deadline deal with Golden State, added 17 points. Mike Dunleavy also had 17, while Ersan Ilyasova had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Jennings, who was 6 for 10 in the third quarter and 1 for 7 the rest of the game, also finished with seven assists and six rebounds.
That makes six players in double figures for the Bucks, who shot 52 percent and outrebounded the Wizards 48-35. Milwaukee took the lead for good with a 15-2 run at the end of the first quarter and would have won by more if it weren’t for some unsightly stretches. The Bucks committed 11 of their 19 turnovers in the first half.
“More than a couple of times, we got a little loose with the ball,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said.
Jordan Crawford scored 23 points to lead the Wizards, who again had to go with a young lineup while Nene and Trevor Booker recover from similar injuries — both have plantar fasciitis in the left foot. Rookie Jan Vesely scored a career-high 14 points, and Kevin Seraphin had 15. John Wall finished with 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds while shooting just 4 for 13, but he clearly wasn’t happy that he took only six free throws.
“I’m not going to say I got fouled so I won’t get fined,” Wall said. “I’m just trying to play basketball and attack the basket and do what I do. The calls didn’t go my way. The shots didn’t go my way, so you’ve got to get ready for the next time.”
The Wizards have lost seven of eight and were playing the second night of a back-to-back.
“I don’t think we had the bounce in our legs tonight that I’ve seen,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “We were down on ourselves a couple of times. I felt it in our huddle.”
Milwaukee stayed more or less in command, but the Wizards threatened to make a game of it with a 9-0 run that cut the lead to two early in the third quarter.
That’s when Jennings took over. He made two finger-roll layups and a pair of free throws in a 10-0 run, then hit another driving layup in a 6-0 spurt.
The Wizards pulled within seven early in the fourth quarter on Roger Mason’s 3-pointer, but the Bucks responded with a 21-7 run led by Livingston and Dunleavy to put the game away. Udoh was also a factor late, allowing center Drew Gooden to sit out the fourth quarter and nurse a sore lower back.
It’s a bit of rest that might pay dividends headed into the crucial stretch at home, where the Bucks are only 12-12 this season. .
“We’ve got to make sure we take advantage of this spot on our schedule when we’re at home, and not go home and kind of get lazy, laying around,” Skiles said. “It’s one of those seasons where every team feels like they’ve been on the road the whole season, so we’ve got to make sure we go home, take advantage of it and have good intensity.”
NOTES: Milwaukee G Beno Udrih sat out after injuring his left hand in Saturday’s loss to Memphis, and F-G Carlos Delfino missed his fourth consecutive game with an injured right groin. … The Bucks lead the season series 3-0 with one game remaining. … Washington ended a streak of nine straight games in which it allowed fewer than 100 points. The improved defense didn’t translate into success in the standings: The Wizards went 2-7 during those games.