Bucks, Hawks battle in crucial Eastern Conference clash
(Sports Network) - Not only is this the time of year for NCAA March Madness, but it also represents teams jockeying for playoff position in the NBA.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks are examples of teams trying to better postseason positioning and will go head-to-head Wednesday at Philips Arena.
Atlanta is fifth in the East standings -- two games behind Brooklyn and just one-half game ahead of Chicago and Boston -- and looks to get back on track after having a three-game winning streak stopped in Monday's 127-113 setback versus the Dallas Mavericks.
Jeff Teague scored 19 points and Al Horford had 16 points and 11 boards for the Hawks, who opened a three-game homestand in poor fashion and still has a dominant 21-12 home record.
"We talked to us about how hard they play, and how well they have been playing. I think they were, by far, the more aggressive team tonight," Horford said. "I felt that we came out, we were playing, but I think we kind of got seduced into playing their style of play. They really pushed the tempo up."
The Hawks are set to close out the homestand Friday versus Portland.
Milwaukee sits in the eighth and final postseason spot in the East and is two games within reach of both the Bulls and Celtics.
The Bucks completed a three-game homestand (2-1) with Tuesday's 102-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Bradley Center. Brandon Jennings scored a team-best 24 points and Monta Ellis added 21, nine rebounds and eight assists in the win, Milwaukee's second in a row since a three-game slide.
Milwaukee stifled the playoff-hopeful Blazers in the second quarter, outscoring them by a 31-8 margin. Samuel Dalembert added 16 points and seven rebounds, while J.J. Redick scored 14 points off the bench for the Bucks.
"I liked our focus in the first half. I thought we slipped a little bit in the second half, but I feel like there's something for us to build on," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said.
The Bucks, who have scored 100-plus points in two straight and nine of 11 games, are set to play three of four games on the road and have a 16-16 away ledger this season.
Milwaukee faced Atlanta less than a month ago at the Bradley Center and was handed a 103-102 loss on Feb. 23. Horford scored the go-ahead basket with 5.9 seconds remaining to cap a fourth-quarter rally and finished with 23 points. Redick scored 16 points in his debut for the Bucks, who have lost four of the last five meetings between the teams.
Atlanta has won two straight and eight of nine as the host in this series.
03/20 10:29:32 ET