When the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks met to open 2009-10, the 76ers were eying a third straight trip to the playoffs while the Bucks were expected to finish under .500 for the sixth consecutive time.
Neither team's season has unfolded that way.
The playoff-hopeful Bucks try to post their ninth straight home victory and hand the 76ers their 14th loss in 16 games Wednesday night.
Philadelphia (24-47) was hoping to take the next step after losing tough first-round series the last two years. Instead, the 76ers are on the verge of losing 50 games for the first time since 1997-98.
Milwaukee (39-30) faced low expectations that got even lower when Michael Redd, the franchise's fourth all-time leading scorer, was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered Jan. 10. Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings, who had an impressive debut with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a 99-86 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 30, appeared to at least provide hope for the future.
It turned out, however, that the Bucks were ready to compete for a playoff spot immediately. Milwaukee is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning of 15 of 17, and is on its longest win streak at the Bradley Center since a 10-game run Dec. 10, 2003-Jan. 15, 2004.
John Salmons scored a season-high 32 points in a 98-95 victory over Atlanta on Monday. The Bucks' latest home win cut the team's magic number for clinching its first playoff spot in four seasons to seven.
"I think we had a sense of urgency," Salmons said. "We knew that this was an important game for us and we wanted to continue the winning streak. We know we need to win as many games as possible to gain as much momentum as we can going into the playoffs."
Milwaukee prevailed despite getting a combined 11 points from leading scorers Jennings and Andrew Bogut. Key reserve Ersan Ilyasova had his lowest total in 15 games with three.
"It wouldn't have been that long ago if Brandon goes 1 for 8, Ersan 1 for 6 and Bogues (Bogut) 4 for 11 that we'd win a game or even be in a game," coach Scott Skiles said. "We've got more depth now and we can play some different ways and tonight we went small and the guys did a great job with it."
Salmons, a Philadelphia native who spent his first four seasons with the 76ers, is averaging 20.5 points in 17 games since the Bucks acquired him from Chicago on Feb. 18.
Milwaukee evened the season series at a game apiece by ending a six-game slide against Philadelphia with a 91-88 victory Jan. 27. Jennings had 18 points and seven assists.
Philadelphia's woes have been due in large part to sub-par seasons from Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young - two of their three leading scorers from 2008-09.
Young has missed the last four games with a right thumb fracture while Lou Williams sat out Monday's 109-93 home loss to Orlando with a back injury.
Iguodala, shooting a career-low 42.7 percent from the field in 2009-10, and Elton Brand each scored 23 points.
"We played well," Brand said. "I'm tired of playing well. We want to win the game."
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