An untimely losing streak has put the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff hopes in jeopardy. They will attempt to right themselves when they conclude a three-game road trip against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
The Bucks (40-39) missed an opportunity to secure a postseason berth when they lost 104-89 to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night despite 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee, which dropped its third straight, turned the ball over 21 times, resulting in 29 Indiana points.
With three games left in the regular season, the Bucks fell to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind Atlanta (40-38) and a game ahead of Chicago (39-40) and Indiana (39-40). Ninth-place Miami (38-40) is another half-game back.
The Bucks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot over the Bulls and Pacers remains at two, and they have the tiebreaker over both.
“We’ve got to cross the finish line of Stage One, and that’s getting the notch by your name to make the playoffs,” coach Jason Kidd said in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We had an opportunity to do that (Thursday) and we didn’t. But the way that we’re playing is not the way we were in March. We’ve got to get back to playing the way we did in March, defensively and offensively.
“In March and April, everyone is trying to win. The teams that are not in the playoffs are trying to win, too. They’re trying to get better. You can’t take anybody lightly and you can’t exhale. We have to get back to being the aggressors.”
And to limiting mistakes.
“We had way too many turnovers (Thursday),” Kidd told the Journal Sentinel. “We talked about it before the game; we’ve got to take care of the ball. Get shots, make or miss. That puts you in a bad situation defensively because they’re going to take advantage of it, and they did.”
The Bucks have been without rookie point guard Malcolm Brogdon (back tightness) the last four games, and he will not play Saturday, either. He is expected to return before the end of the regular season; the Bucks’ other two remaining games are against Charlotte next Monday and at Boston next Wednesday.
Philadelphia, which has dropped five straight games to fall to 28-51, has lost five players for the season to injury, and backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez has missed the last six games with a strained left hamstring. He was scheduled to be re-evaluated on Friday.
In addition, rookie forward Dario Saric is on a minutes restriction because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and point guard T.J. McConnell briefly left Thursday’s 102-90 loss to Chicago with a sprained left ankle. He later returned.
The Sixers shot just 36.3 percent from the floor and 21.2 percent from 3-point range against the Bulls. They led only in the game’s opening minutes and trailed by at least eight points over the final 22:50.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “The first period (in which Philadelphia was outscored 27-17) kind of set the stage. We really had a hard time scoring.”