Preview: Bucks vs. Nuggets
MILWAUKEE — With one game before the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks will try to end an eventful and occasionally turbulent first half on a high note Thursday night when they welcome the Denver Nuggets to the Bradley Center.
Milwaukee has dealt with its fair share of adversary this season.
The Bucks began the year without forward Jabari Parker, who was still rehabbing from an ACL tear. They saw center Greg Monroe dealt to Phoenix early for point guard Eric Bledsoe, and went lengthy stretches without point guard Matthew Dellavedova.
Milwaukee also lost forward Mirza Teletovic for an indefinite amount of time because of a medical issue.
Most recently, the Bucks learned they’d be without point guard Malcolm Brogdon for several weeks after he tore a tendon in his left quad and Dellavedova is back on the shelf again with an ankle injury.
If that wasn’t enough, Milwaukee also sacked coach Jason Kidd late last month.
Through all that, a 97-92 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday night moved the Bucks eight games over the .500 mark for the first time since Feb. 20, 2015. They are off to their best start through 56 games since the 2001-02 season.
Milwaukee has been especially good at home, though, where they’ve won 19 of 28 games this season — their last at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks have won nine of 11 games since Joe Prunty took over the coaching duties.
“We’ve done good work to get to this point,” Prunty said. “But now, the biggest thing is to focus on Denver.”
Denver, too, would like to finish on a high note and try to build some momentum away from home, where the Nuggets have struggled.
They’d lost seven straight road contests before beating Phoenix 123-113 on Saturday and are 8-19 in road games this season.
“At some point, we’re going to have to find ways to win (road) games,” coach Michael Malone said.
A victory over Milwaukee on Thursday would send the Nuggets into the break on a three-game winning streak. Denver has won five of its last six overall, including a 117-109 victory over San Antonio on Tuesday night that featured a triple-double from Nikola Jokic.
That left Denver bunched up with Oklahoma City, Portland and New Orleans, all of which are within one game of each other for the final Western Conference playoff spots.
“We have a good rhythm right now,” Malone said. “Let’s not check out mentally until after the game. These games going into the break are always the tough ones, because guys are thinking about that Mai Tai on the beach they’re gonna be drinking.
“Let’s handle our business … and then we can get some well-deserved rest.”
Denver swept the season series with the Bucks last year behind 18.0 points and 6.5 rebounds from Wilson Chandler.
Parker faced the Nuggets twice before suffering his injury last season. He averaged 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in those contests.