WASHINGTON – Back-to-back games against the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers could be just what the Milwaukee Bucks need to remain in the playoff race.
Brandon Jennings scored 23 points and Andrew Bogut had 14 points, nine rebounds and a season-high seven assists in his first game back after an injury to help the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Washington Wizards 95-76 on Tuesday night.
Coupled with Indiana's 110-100 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Bucks trail the Pacers by 2½ games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
On Wednesday, the Bucks travel to Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are 8-24 this season.
John Salmons had 22 points for the Bucks, who ended a two-game losing streak. Jennings scored 10 points in the third quarter and the Bucks led 75-52 after three.
"We kind of were on cruise control a little bit," said Jennings, who sat the entire fourth quarter alongside backcourt mate Salmons. "Our bench played great. Also John played great, and Bogut, with his first game back. ... We've got to go on and get Cleveland tomorrow and Philly with the next game."
Rookie Jordan Crawford had a career-high 22 points for the Wizards, who have lost nine of their last 10.
Bogut returned to the Bucks' starting lineup after missing three games with a muscle strain in his left ribcage area. He played 33 minutes and scored six straight points for Milwaukee midway through the second quarter.
"I felt good," Bogut said. "My wind was good, conditioning was good. We moved the ball, we shared the ball, we hit some fast-break easy baskets, and we defended. ... We don't want to get stuck in that game of checking the standings every day. We just need to go out and play and win the games we're supposed to."
The Bucks closed the second quarter with a 21-6 run for a 51-36 halftime lead, capped by Jennings' 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We came out the second half with energy again and got a big lead," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We moved the ball well again tonight — maybe even a couple times in the first half to a fault. We played unselfish tonight and as a result got a good win. We're trying to move up, so we're happy about that.
"If you're trying to catch people, you've got to keep the pressure on them."
Wizards forward Andray Blatche left the game with a sprained right shoulder with 8:46 remaining in the first quarter.
Blatche was battling Luc Mbah a Moute and Jennings to maintain possession of the ball when he fell hard on his right shoulder. Blatche walked to the locker room clutching his shoulder and did not return. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday, Wizards coach Flip Saunders said.
"We already got all our small forwards out," said Nick Young, who had 10 points and five turnovers for the Wizards. "Dray goes down — crazy."
The Wizards pulled off a rare feat in the NBA by having five rookies on the court together — John Wall, Crawford, Trevor Booker, Hamady Ndiaye and Mustafa Shakur at one point late in the first quarter and early in the second. The last team to use an only rookie lineup was the Houston Rockets on March 1, 2010.
"That was probably our best stint, to be honest," Saunders said. "They competed, and we had really a pretty good stretch at that time."
The Miami Heat also played five rookies against the Toronto Raptors on April 14, 2008.
"I didn't even know until the coaches said it at halftime," Crawford said. "We played with a lot of hustle, got back into the game, but unfortunately with young players like us sometimes there are slipups, so we couldn't maintain keeping up with them and they got out to a good lead."
The Wizards dressed 11 players and were without forwards Rashard Lewis (sore right knee), Josh Howard (strained left hamstring) and Cartier Martin (right patella tendinitis).
Notes: Saunders endorsed Chicago Bulls G Derrick Rose for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. "Rose is the bomb," Saunders said. "I've never seen a guy improve his perimeter shooting so much in one year. He probably won't get it because people are talking so much about MVP, but he should be the most improved player in the league. Who has improved more than him in this league? I don't think anybody has." ... Ten of the Bucks' 16 games in March are at home. ... Ndiaye, who entered the game with 12 minutes played this season, played six minutes on Tuesday. ... The Wizards' 22 turnovers were three shy of their season high.