Bucks-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 10, 2013
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are carrying the Milwaukee Bucks toward a rare playoff appearance. Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart knows it's going to be a challenge to slow the Bucks' talented backcourt on Sunday night in the California capital. Since the Bucks (31-29) dropped nine of 11, Ellis is averaging 25.7 points during a 5-1 run. He had 26 points, five rebounds and five assists in Saturday's 103-93 win over Golden State. "Monta has been playing at this level for quite a while now,'' said coach Jim Boylan, whose team is 1-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. "He's really taken off." The same could be said of Jennings, who hit a season-best six 3-pointers and finished with 31 points and 10 assists on Saturday, and now has a career-best four consecutive double-doubles. The point guard is averaging 20.0 points and 14.5 assists during that run and has helped Milwaukee build an 8 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks, who have been to the playoffs once since 2006, are going for their first season sweep of the Kings (22-42) since 2008-09 after defeating them 98-85 on Dec. 12 behind Ellis' 17 points and 11 assists and Jennings' 19 points. "They have two very, very talented small players who can create a lot of problems and you have to be aware of where you need to be as far as help (and) where you need to be in your pick-and-roll coverage," Smart told the Kings' official website. "Plus, they can shoot the long-range shot, which makes it a little bit difficult because they can spread the floor." The addition of J.J. Redick from Orlando last month has made it even more challenging for opposing defenses. The veteran sharpshooter hit two 3s and scored eight of his 15 in the fourth quarter on Saturday. The Kings also have a number long-range threats. Over the last six games, Marcus Thornton is averaging a team-best 23.3 points on 25 of 52 from beyond the arc, John Salmons is 17 of 37, Tyreke Evans has hit 10 of 22 3-point attempts and point guard Isaiah Thomas has converted half of his 26 3-point tries. Sacramento is averaging 113.1 points and 27.3 assists during this stretch after handing out 32 in Friday's 121-112 victory over Phoenix. The Kings also had four players (Thomas, Evans, Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins) score more than 20 for the first time since a 129-122 home loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 16, 2009. "What's been working is us playing unselfishly, making the next pass and also getting guys just shooting it with confidence and knocking it down," Thomas said after the team hit 13 of 27 3s and shot 54.9 percent overall. That didn't happen Dec. 12 when the Kings missed 16 of 19 3-pointers and converted 37.2 percent from the field. Sacramento, though, was without Cousins (suspended) and Thornton (personal reasons) for that matchup. Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova is listed as day-to-day after missing Saturday's game with a left knee injury suffered on Wednesday. He scored 16 points and grabbed 14 boards the last time these teams played. The Bucks are 3-1 outside Milwaukee since a season-worst four-game road losing streak. The Kings have won three straight and seven of eight at home against the East. They snapped a three-game home skid to the Bucks last Jan. 5, winning 103-100.
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