Preview: Bucks vs. Mavericks

The Milwaukee Bucks will try to move one step closer to locking down a playoff berth for the first time in two years Sunday when they host the Dallas Mavericks at the Bradley Center.

Milwaukee has been riding high lately, posting a 14-4 record in the month of March, which is the franchise’s best one-month mark since 1972, when the Bucks went 16-2 in March en route to the world championship. The strong month has pushed the Bucks up into fifth place in the East and a season-high four games over .500.

Their latest effort, a 108-105 overtime victory over Detroit on Friday, was far from a masterpiece, but still it was an example of how much Jason Kidd’s team has matured.

The Bucks blew an 18-point first-quarter lead and trailed by 10 with five minutes to play but rallied to force overtime and pulled away late on a Khris Middleton 3-pointer.

“I think it just shows where the team is at mentally and physically. Being down and maybe not playing our best, we still believed we could find a way to win,” Kidd said.

Milwaukee was without guard Malcolm Brogdon, a Rookie of the Year candidate who was battling back pain, and John Henson, who is out with a sprained thumb. But Michael Beasley returned for the Bucks and rookie Thon Maker picked up the slack with a career-high 23 points against the Pistons.

The Bucks also added some help for the stretch run, waiving seldom-used Terrence Jones while picking up Gary Payton II out of the D-League, where he was averaging 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists for Rio Grande Valley.

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The Mavericks come to Milwaukee looking to snap a four-game losing streak and are clinging desperately to playoff hopes.

Dallas begins the day 11th in the West, six games behind the eighth-place Trail Blazers with seven games to play.

“The chance of making the playoffs are slim to none, so that’s been difficult,” Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

A bit player for the Golden State Warriors last season, Barnes moved into a leading role this season with Dallas and is averaging 19.4 points on 46.6 percent shooting.

“A lot of that falls on my shoulders — just being better,” Barnes said. “I think throughout this league you can see how a player’s performance can elevate his team to be successful and do well.”

Injuries have been a problem this season for Dallas, which may be without Seth Curry Sunday, but Barnes is hoping for a strong finish.

“We just have to go out there and play hard and compete,” Barnes said. “I’ve never believed that you just want to give up.

“You want to still go out there and play to the level that we know we can play at. Try to make winning plays, compete hard and just play for each other.”

Dallas has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the Bucks, including an 86-75 overtime victory earlier this season.