Milwaukee Bucks are riding a six-game winning streak and get a chance to make up ground in the NBA Eastern Conference playoff race when they host the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. Brand new Bucks Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh will make their Milwaukee debuts as the team seeks to earn its first seven-game winning streak since Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson ripped off eight straight victories from Jan. 8 to Jan. 21 in the 2001-02 season. NBA TV is set to broadcast the contest, so a national television audience will be watching this very important game unfold as well.
Bucks with plenty to prove: The six-game winning streak is nice, but Milwaukee is still on the outside of the playoff picture, looking in. The New York Knicks have started a five-game run of their own and sit one full game ahead of the Bucks for the No. 8 seed, while the Celtics are still three games up and in the No. 7 slot. Milwaukee hasn't beaten a single team over .500 during their surge, but when the schedule puts the NY Knicks, Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers all in a row, the best thing you can do it beat them.
Now it's time to improve that 6-17 mark against teams over .500, not only because it's the worst mark of any team in the Eastern Conference race, but because this reconstituted Bucks team can pave their own path and earn the trust of fans with a win. The players need to believe a playoff run is possible. The fans need to believe a playoff run is possible. The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks need to know the Bucks aren't going away in this race. A win could make a big statement.
Thanks a lot, NCAA Tournament scheduler: Given the magnitude of this game for the Bucks, it is frustrating that the Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles BOTH play their Sweet Sixteen games on Thursday night. The No. 4 Badgers take on the No. 1 Syracuse Orange in the East Region (6:15 p.m. CT on CBS), while the No. 3 Golden Eagles draw the No. 7 Florida Gators in the West Region (9:17 p.m. CT on TBS). As a proud alumnus of both local universities, all I can say is: THANKS A LOT, NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULER.
Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh Make Their Debut: I expect 35 points and a game-winner from Ellis, and a triple-double with blocks, steals and rebounds from Udoh. But seriously, I hope they get a very warm welcome from Squad 6 and everyone in attendance at the Bradley Center. They certainly deserve it.