MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks are running out of time if they have any hopes of clinching a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
They also are running out of healthy bodies.
The Bucks will be short-handed again Friday, when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers at the Bradley Center. Jabari Parker is out for the year after knee surgery. Michael Beasley is on the shelf with a hyperextended left knee, and Khris Middleton is still easing back into form after missing the first 50 games of the season with a torn hamstring.
That leaves Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd little to work with in terms of lineups and rotations, which is why Kidd inserted seldom-used guard Rashad Vaughn into the starting unit Wednesday night along with point guard Malcolm Brogdon.
“We’re giving everybody an opportunity,” Kidd said Wednesday night after the Bucks lost 110-98 to the Denver Nuggets. “We would love to start Khris (Middleton), but we’re trying to keep him (off the bench) until he’s ready to start. We’re running out of guys, health-wise. We’ve got to play the guys who can suit up, and they’ve got to play as hard as they can.”
After carrying a three-game winning streak into the All-Star break to move into eighth place in the East, Milwaukee has dropped three of its past four games while allowing opponents to score 100 points in each of those contests.
Now, the Bucks sit 10th in the East, two games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the conference.
“There are a lot of things that could distract us, that we could put the blame on,” Brogdon said. “But at the end of the day, we’re not playing as hard as we need to. We’re not executing like we need to. We’re not playing the games like we do in practice. Regardless of injuries, regardless of switching the lineups, we have to come out ready to play.”
Los Angeles will look to bounce back after a 122-103 loss to Houston Wednesday night, the Clippers’ third defeat in four games since the All-Star break. The three losses have come against the three best teams in the West — the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and Houston — by an average of 12.3 points.
“Without making excuses, we’re still getting right,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told the Los Angeles Times after the loss to the Rockets. “We just got our two guys (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) back. It’s going to take a little bit of time. … But that does not excuse how we played tonight. They out-toughed us tonight. They were the more driven team, and that bothers me.”
The Friday game will mark Los Angeles center Diamond Stone’s return to his hometown.
Stone, the 40th overall pick in the NBA Draft last summer, grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, where he attended Dominican High School before going onto to play one season at Maryland. He didn’t play Wednesday due to a knee injury, and he is averaging just 1.4 points and 3.4 minutes per game.
The Clippers swept the season series with Milwaukee a year ago. The teams’ second meeting this season will be March 15 at Staples Center.