Trail Blazers-Bucks Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- As the regular season dwindles down, the Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers are doing their best to remain in postseason contention.
With both teams currently on the outside of the playoff picture, the Bucks look for a fourth consecutive victory Saturday night while trying to prevent the Trail Blazers from a third straight win.
With three straight victories over weaker opponents in Washington, Cleveland and Charlotte, Milwaukee (27-28) has continue a month-long stretch of success that has seen it go 12-4. Monta Ellis had 25 points while Brandon Jennings scored 18 and Ersan Ilyasova added 12 with 15 rebounds as the Bucks overcame a 40.7-percent shooting performance Friday to beat the Bobcats 95-90 at home.
Ninth in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks moved within one game of idle New York for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"Milwaukee is just a really good team," said Charlotte's Byron Mullens, who finished with 31 points and 14 rebounds. "They're fighting for the playoffs."
Despite the win, Mullens' performance and the fact that the league-worst Bobcats managed to stick around did not please Bucks coach Scott Skiles.
"I told the guys I am not going home happy," Skiles said. "I don't think they should either. They should be disgusted by it."
Skiles should at least be happy with Ellis' recent play. The veteran guard, averaging 16.6 points in 12 games since the Bucks acquired him from Golden State last month, has totaled 55 points in the last two contests.
Ellis had 14 points and nine assists and was one of six Bucks to score in double figures as Milwaukee shot a season-high 57.8 percent during a 116-87 win at Portland on March 20.
"You've got to give them credit," interim Blazers coach Kaleb Canales said. "They're a hot team and we didn't take them out of their game."
While Milwaukee dominated the Trail Blazers (27-29) on the road, Portland has won three of the last four meetings at the Bradley Center.
Portland should be filled with confidence after it went into Dallas on Friday night and came away with a 99-97 overtime win over the Mavericks.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points with 12 rebounds and hit a buzzer-beating 17-foot jumper in overtime. Raymond Felton scored 16 of his season-high 30 points in the third quarter, when the Trail Blazers outscored Dallas 30-10 to overcome a 12-point halftime deficit.
The Blazers, currently 11th in the West, have won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 23 and 24 and are within 3 1/2 games of Houston and Denver, which currently hold the final two playoff spots.
Aldridge continues to pace the Blazers, averaging 24.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last six games.
"LaMarcus is our All-Star," Canales said. "We were going to LaMarcus. (On Friday), a big-time player, big-time shot."
Third-year Portland swingman and former Marquette standout Wesley Matthews is averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in his last three games versus Milwaukee.
Updated April 7, 2012