NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, March 31st (All times eastern)
Milwaukee Bucks (41-32) at Cleveland Cavaliers (58-16), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Milwaukee Bucks have surprisingly been one of the NBA's best teams over the second half of this season. The up-and-coming club will get a chance to see just how far it's come when it pays a visit to Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena tonight for a showdown with the powerful Cavaliers.
Milwaukee is closing in on its first postseason appearance since 2005-06 and enters this evening's Central Division clash having won 17 of its past 21 contests. That impressive run has vaulted the Bucks into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of sixth-seeded Miami.
"We've had a successful season up to this point, but there's still a lot of room for improvement," said center Andrew Bogut after last night's 107-89 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. "It's a good sign for the franchise."
The Bucks extended their margin over the Heat with Tuesday's triumph over the non-contending Los Angeles Clippers, capping a five-game homestand in which the team finished 3-2. Ersan Ilyasova led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds off the bench, with rookie Brandon Jennings adding 17 points and six assists from his point guard position.
Holding a slim four-point edge early in the second quarter, the Bucks outscored the Clippers 22-10 to take a comfortable 56-40 lead with just over 1 1/2 minutes remaining until halftime and maintained a double-digit cushion the rest of the way.
While Milwaukee has clearly turned the corner following a string of poor seasons, the team hasn't been able to garner much success in this series in recent years. The Bucks did snap a six-game losing streak to the Cavaliers with a 92-85 home win on March 6, but have left with defeats in four straight and 12 of their last 13 visits to Quicken Loans Arena.
Then again, there haven't been many teams able to knock off Cleveland in its own building as of late. The Cavaliers are a stellar 32-4 at "The Q" this season and recorded their eighth straight home win with Sunday's 97-90 decision over Sacramento. The victory was also the 15th in the last 17 overall outings for Cleveland, which boasts a league-best 58-16 ledger and a healthy six-game lead on Orlando for the top spot in the East.
Against the Kings, LeBron James scored 23 of his game-high 34 points in the second half and the Cavaliers played stifling defense down the stretch to deny Sacramento's upset bid.
Up just 85-84 with under minutes left, Cleveland went on a 9-2 run to build an eight-point advantage and limited the Kings to just 14 points in the fourth quarter. Sacramento failed to score over the final 2 1/2 minutes of the game.
"It was a good win," said Cavs head coach Mike Brown. "I thought that in the fourth quarter, we stepped up our defense and that was the difference in the ball game."
Antawn Jamison also made a difference for Cleveland, pouring in 26 points and nine rebounds to help ease the scoring load off James.
03/31 10:33:30 ET