Sitting just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Philadelphia 76ers have their sights set on catching the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks.
Adding to the Bucks' recent woes Wednesday night could help them inch closer.
Road-challenged Philadelphia tries to pick up a rare win in Milwaukee, which hopes to avoid a season-worst fifth consecutive loss in both teams' final game before All-Star weekend.
While the 76ers (22-28) have experienced their ups and downs, they find themselves three games behind the Bucks (25-25) for the East's final playoff berth.
"If we can get this win on the road going into the All-Star break, it's not only important from that point, but if they win they get the tiebreak," said coach Doug Collins, whose team is 0-2 against Milwaukee. "We have to find a way to beat this team."
Philadelphia, which hosts Milwaukee on March 27, has dropped four of five at the Bradley Center but could be catching the Bucks at the right time.
Milwaukee is coming off its sixth loss in seven games, 102-90 to Washington on Monday. Monta Ellis had 24 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and a season high-tying six steals, but leading scorer Brandon Jennings had seven on 3-of-17 shooting.
The Bucks allowed the Wizards, who had previously gone winless in all 14 road games against East opponents, to shoot 56.8 percent.
"Right now we are spotty," interim coach Jim Boylan said. "We are not consistently bringing the type of energy that we need to win a game. Tonight we had some spurts and a little pop at times, however we have had a hard time sustaining it in the last few games."
Larry Sanders missed his third consecutive contest due to a back injury, leaving his status for this game unknown. The third-year big man leads the NBA with 3.2 blocks per game.
While Sanders' return could go a long way for Milwaukee, Jennings likely needs to pick up the pace. Averaging 18.5 points, Jennings has been limited to 15.2 per game and 28.8 percent shooting during the Bucks' last six losses.
The 76ers, though, haven't been able to contain him this season. Jennings had 33 points in a 105-96 win at Philadelphia on Nov. 12, then scored 25 in a 110-102 home victory Jan. 22. The Bucks shot a combined 51.6 percent in those meetings with Jennings hitting 52.6 percent of his attempts.
"I don't know if it's a playoff-type game, I think it's more of an us-trying-to-get-into-the-playoffs-type game," 76ers All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday said. "We obviously need to have this game to split the series.
"The last time we played them we didn't really have the energy. Again, we've got to come with the fight. ... We just have to contain them a lot better."
Philadelphia hits the road after concluding a 5-3 homestand with Monday's 107-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Nick Young scored 29 points but Holiday and Evan Turner each shot 4 for 14 in being held to 10 points apiece.
"We'll be fine," Turner said. "We've got to stay confident and remain focused."
Holiday, averaging a league-worst 4.0 turnovers, committed a career high-tying eight in both matchups against Milwaukee.
The 76ers have dropped 13 of 15 in opposing arenas, including five straight by an average of 15.8 points.
The Associated Press News Service
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