Bucks reach .500 for first time since January
MILWAUKEE -- It had been 52 games since the Milwaukee Bucks were a .500 team, back then with a 2-2 record. But after falling nine games below that mark exactly one month ago, Milwaukee's 22-point win Saturday night against Portland has them back to even.
With just 10 games left in their regular season and a playoff spot very much within reach, the Bucks are riding a four-game winning streak and are now just a half-game behind the New York Knicks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Plus, with the 76ers' loss to Orlando on Saturday, Milwaukee is just 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the seventh spot.
"It feels good to be back at .500, but we're still out of the playoff race (and) it doesn't mean anything if we don't keep this pace up," point guard Brandon Jennings said after scoring 21 points against the Trail Blazers. "If we want to make that playoff push, this was the time tonight."
Jennings has kept a close eye on the teams the Bucks are chasing for a postseason berth and already has his Easter afternoon plans laid out.
"I will be glued to the TV watching the Knicks and the Bulls," Jennings said.
If the Knicks lose that game, the Bucks' tiebreaker over New York will take effect and Milwaukee will own the eighth seed -- at least for the moment. The Bucks host the Knicks on Wednesday in what will be a huge game to determine playoff positioning.
When Milwaukee fell to 15-24 on March 7, there didn't appear to be much hope of a turnaround. Center Andrew Bogut was sidelined indefinitely with a fractured ankle, and shooting guard Stephen Jackson was in coach Scott Skiles' doghouse and not playing. But a week later, the Bucks traded both Bogut and Jackson to Golden State for Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh and have gone 9-4 since.
"We definitely have the type of team to be .500," reserve guard Beno Udrih said. "We have a couple new faces, so we just have to get used to each other, and that's what we did. Now we're here, and we want to stay here."
As much of an accomplishment as it was for Milwaukee to climb out of that nine-game hole -- with Udrih calling it a "prideful" moment -- the underwhelming first half of the season is still weighing on the players' minds.
"This is a small thing we did right now," Udrih said. "The bigger thing, we're trying to look at the bigger picture, trying to get to the playoffs and trying to get as far as we can.
"There's pressure on us, too. (We need to) slowly get as far away from .500 as possible, get to 60 percent or something. We just have to play hard."
Saturday, the Bucks were dominant in the second half, outscoring Portland 62-31. Udrih and Jennings led the way with 21 points each, while Ersan Ilyasova added 20 and Ellis finished with 17.
"We had a very energetic second half," Skiles said.
Milwaukee will certainly be in for a challenge in its next game, hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. However, even though the Thunder possess the NBA's third-best record, they've lost three games in a row for the first time all season.
"They've been struggling, so hopefully some of their struggle comes here to Milwaukee," Jennings said.
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