If they hope to make a run at seventh place in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks really need to take care of business against the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats.
The Bucks will try to win for only the fourth time in 12 games and beat the Bobcats for the 10th straight time in Milwaukee on Monday night.
While they have a 5 1/2-game lead over ninth-place Philadelphia, the Bucks (35-37) have dropped five of six and are struggling to gain ground on seventh-place Boston.
Milwaukee plays only four of its remaining 10 games at home.
The Bucks had a five-point lead on their home court early in the fourth quarter Saturday, but Oklahoma City put together a 19-2 run down the stretch and cruised to a 109-99 win.
"I thought that we competed and from that perspective, I was very happy with our physical effort," said coach Jim Boylan, whose club shot 37.8 percent. "We just didn't make enough shots."
That was certainly the case for Milwaukee leading scorer Monta Ellis, who scored nine points and shot 3 of 17.
Ellis had 31 points against the Bobcats in a 102-98 loss Nov. 19, but managed 13 while going 3 for 11 in a 108-93 home win Dec. 7.
That was the team's ninth straight victory over Charlotte at the Bradley Center and 14th in 15 all-time meetings there.
After a 100-92 defeat to Philadelphia on Saturday, the Bobcats (17-56) wrap up their three-game trip looking to snap a 10-game road skid. Charlotte has lost by an average of 20.2 points during that slide and is a league-worst 6-31 on the road.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may be able to provide a spark after totaling 35 points and 17 rebounds while shooting 15 of 22 in his last two games.
Gerald Henderson is also playing well, averaging 29.3 points while making 55.8 percent from the field in his last three. He's scored 20.7 per game and hit 54.8 percent in his last three against the Bucks.
While the Bobcats rank last in the NBA with a 42.2 field-goal percentage and near the bottom at 93.5 points per game, they've averaged 102.7 points in their last three contests and hit 50.0 percent from the field against the 76ers.
"When you come out of games like this, you emphasize what you did well,' coach Mike Dunlap said Saturday. "We played well on both sides."
They may be able to maintain that pace against the Bucks, who have given up 103.6 points over their last five contests.
After leading Milwaukee with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the December win over Charlotte, Ersan Ilyasova could be a factor again in this meeting as he's averaged 21.1 points and 12.3 rebounds in his last seven games.
Point guard Brandon Jennings hasn't been nearly as productive, averaging 8.8 points and 25.0 percent from the field - 6 for 28 from 3-point range - in his last five contests.
Milwaukee, which has averaged 106.8 points in its last nine at home, will be facing a Charlotte team that's allowed 107.0 in its last four overall.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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