Milwaukee is currently 29-28 with a strong hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. However, the Bucks are not interested in the eighth seed. They would prefer to move up the ladder so they would not have to face the talented Miami Heat in the first round. Milwaukee is 2.5 games behind the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics, and could move that to an even two with a win against Utah.
The Jazz are fighting for their own postseason lives as they currently occupy the seventh seed in the competitive Western Conference. They are only one game behind the Golden State Warriors and a mere half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets. The best Utah could realistically do is move up to the sixth seed as they are currently 5 ½ games behind the fifth-place Denver Nuggets.
The Bucks could have the advantage heading into Monday’s contest because of not only their hot streak, but also the fact that the Jazz’s two best players could be sidelined for the game. Center Al Jefferson has been dealing with an ankle sprain that kept him out of the team’s 30-point win over the Charlotte Bobcats Friday night. Head coach Tyrone Corbin believes his top scorer will be able to play, but admits that it will be a game-time decision.
“(We’ll) look at him,” Corbin said, “and get a good grasp if it’s better for him to play or better for him not to play, so we don’t risk him getting injured any further.”
Jefferson is averaging 17.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 33.0 minutes per game this season. There is no question he is a huge part of the team’s production, and could be a deciding factor if he is not able to suit up.
The Jazz’s second-leading scorer, Paul Millsap, could also miss the game against the Bucks with a sprained left ankle. The power forward has been unable to get any work in since last Monday when he suffered the injury and missed two games.
Millsap understands that sitting on the bench is not going to do his team any good, and realizes that eventually he is going to have to play through the pain. The 28-year old is averaging 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks and 30.5 minutes per game this season.
If Milwaukee continues to play the physical, high-percentage shooting basketball that they have been since the All-Star break, I believe there is no question they can defeat Utah on their home court.