Bucks-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 19, 2012
The surging Milwaukee Bucks haven't experienced much success against the Portland Trail Blazers in recent seasons. Newly acquired Monta Ellis could make all the difference. The Bucks look to extend their winning streak to six for the first time in more than two years Tuesday night against the Trail Blazers, who try to continue their recent domination in this series as interim coach Kaleb Canales makes his home debut. Milwaukee (20-24), sitting a half-game behind eighth-place New York in the Eastern Conference, bolstered its postseason chances Wednesday by sending injured Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to Golden State in exchange for a package headlined by Ellis. Averaging 21.8 points, Ellis had 18 - one of six Bucks with at least 13 - in his debut as Milwaukee recorded its highest-scoring output of the season in Friday's 120-98 rout of the Warriors. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored a career-high 22 to go along with 17 rebounds. "Coaches, everybody was phenomenal. I think it made it smooth for me," Ellis said. "It's great man, it's even better to be out there on the floor with those guys sharing the ball. We've got a lot of guys who can hit shots and make plays ... I think we're going to get (in the playoffs) if we keep playing the way we did (Friday)." The Bucks, who haven't won six in a row since March 3-14, 2010, are averaging 112.8 points during their current run - well above their season mark of 97.5. "We've had a (great) stretch here where we've scored the ball," coach Scott Skiles said. "One of the reasons we got Monta was to add another scorer out there late in the game." Ellis has averaged 30.0 points on 53.4 percent shooting in his last four visits to the Rose Garden, and could prove to be a difference-maker for Milwaukee. The Bucks have dropped eight of nine to the Blazers, including five straight on the road by 12.6 points per contest. Portland (21-24), which fired coach Nate McMillan on Thursday, returns home from a 2-5 road trip without two of its more notable players. The Blazers sent Marcus Camby to Houston and Gerald Wallace to New Jersey in separate deals before the deadline. After defeating NBA-leading Chicago 100-89 in its first game under Canales on Friday, Portland couldn't keep up with West-leading Oklahoma City in Sunday's 111-95 loss. Jamal Crawford scored 23 points while Raymond Felton had 19 and seven assists for the Blazers, who, despite the result, seemed to be pleased with their effort. "We're just going to continue to fight," Felton told the team's official website. "I feel like we're going in the right direction. ... We lost tonight but they had to fight. They had to play hard to beat us. That's the way we want to play." The Blazers remain a handful of games out of the West playoff picture and could have a hard time making a move if LaMarcus Aldridge continues his subpar play. The All-Star has averaged just 17.0 points on 37.3 percent from the floor over the last four games - significantly lower than his season marks of 21.4 and 50.3. Aldridge has averaged 24.0 points on 65.6 percent shooting in his last four home meetings with Milwaukee. The Bucks haven't prevailed in Portland since a 100-93 win March 20, 2006.
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