Bucks Wednesday: Must-win vs. 76ers?
FEB 13, 2013 11:44a ET
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- The only games in sports that are truly "must-wins" are when a team faces elimination or the end of a season with a loss.
The Milwaukee Bucks will not be eliminated from the playoff race if they lose to Philadelphia on Wednesday and their season won't be over. However, Wednesday's game between the Eastern Conference's eighth- and ninth-place teams is as close to a must-win as it gets in mid-February.
Once firmly in the postseason hunt, the Bucks are now clinging to the final playoff spot and are seeking one ounce of confidence heading into a five-day break around the All-Star Game.
After a rough trip to the mountains, the Bucks had three home games against teams with worse records staring at them. It was a golden opportunity to head into the second half a season-high five games over .500 with a legitimate chance to still contend for as high as the fourth or fifth seed.
Instead, Milwaukee has dropped the first two games of the home stand to Detroit and Washington to drop to .500, and there don't seem to be a lot of answers in the locker room. A win Wednesday wouldn't solve all the Bucks' problems, but beating Philadelphia would set the ship back on course for now and give Milwaukee a four-game lead over the 76ers instead of just a two-game lead.
"You want to win, everybody wants to win, we've been struggling lately," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "That's what happens in the course of an NBA season. You hit some patches and you have to fight your way out of it. That's the only way you can do it.
"Something has to shake you out of it. You never know when that something is going to come. You just have to keep fighting and playing hard and you hope (Wednesday) is the day things come together for you and things break your way."
Philadelphia hasn't played well for most of the season yet can be just two games out of the playoffs at the break with center Andrew Bynum having sat out the entire year so far with an injury.
"They are a scrappy team that has refused to quit," Boylan said of Philadelphia. "I'm sure their mentality is to keep playing as hard as they can and then hopefully get Bynum back for their sake and see where they can go from there."
The schedule – particulairly on the road – gets much tougher after the break, starting with a back-to-back home-and-home with Brooklyn next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Bucks are at a rocky point, one that will get bumpier if Philadelphia comes into the BMO Harris Bradley Center and drops Milwaukee's home record to 13-13.
Sanders out: If Milwaukee is going to get back on track against the 76ers, it is going to have to do it without center Larry Sanders.
It was expected, but the Bucks have officially ruled out their starting center for the fourth straight game with a lower-back contusion. Injured on Feb. 5 in Denver, Sanders got a second opinion Tuesday in Chicago.
The Bucks are 1-4 this season without the NBA's blocked shots leader in the lineup.
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