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Nets and Bucks look to secure a place in the playoffs Sunday

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

One step closer. John Wall took Friday night off and the Brooklyn Nets took full advantage, beating the Wizards by 37 points in front of the home crowd at Barclays Center. We're in the final stretch now, and the next three games will determine whether the Nets will make the playoffs. The playoff picture is starting to clear up a bit, and we'll go into some more detail about that in a bit. But this could be the day.

Awaiting the Nets will be the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have managed to surprise a lot of people this season and are on the verge of making the playoffs. They won their last game on Friday night against the Knicks. If they win today, they will be in the playoffs.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV, WCBS 880 AM on the radio. It's a day game so tip off will be after 3 PM.

Hand in hand

On Friday night, the Charlotte Hornets were eliminated from playoff contention. They lost their third straight and were taken out by the Atlanta Hawks in front of their fans in Charlotte. Also, the Pacers beat the Pistons and the Celtics beat the Cavs. Last night, the Raptors beat

2014-2015

Record

Games behind

Tiebreaker situation

Games remaining

Milwaukee

39-40 own tiebreaker over Heat,and Celtics, split series vs.Pacers, lead 2-1 vs. Nets 3

Boston

37-42

-

Won season series vs. Nets and Pacers, down 1-0 to Bucks, lost season series vs. Heat 3

Brooklyn

37-42

-

own tiebreaker vs. Indiana, lost season series to Celtics and Heat, down 2-1 to Milwaukee 3

Indiana

36-43

1

split series with Bucks, lost season series to Nets and Celtics, own tiebreaker vs. Heat 3

Miami

35-45

2.5

own tiebreaker over Nets and Celtics, lost series vs. Pacers and Bucks 2

Today, the Cavaliers play the Celtics and the Thunder play the Pacers. With the Nets magic number two, a Nets win and a Pacers loss would secure the Nets a place in the playoffs, their third straight since moving to Brooklyn.

Injuries

Alan Anderson will miss his fifth straight game with an ankle injury. A league source said he may be out two more games, starting Sunday.

The Bucks are alright.

The game

What's going on? Let's get into it:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Milwaukee

Record

37-42 39-40

Pace

94.94 96.31

Offensive Efficiency

102.3 100.5

Defensive Efficiency

105 99.7

Turnover Rate

14.3 17.2

Assist Rate

16.5 17.8

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.8 25.3

Rebounding Rate

48.8 49.5

Free Throw Rate

26.7 25.8

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.3 49.9

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.5 48.9

The Bucks won the first meeting in November, second in February, and the Nets took the third contest in March. The first and third meetings were both triple overtime affairs, the only time that's happened in NBA history.

Before the season started, I asked Brew Hoop's Frank Madden what would be a successful season for the Bucks. Here's what he told me:

A year ago I would have told you it was all about finding minutes for the youngsters and hoping they develop, and I'm thinking that's likely to be the theme for the next couple years as well.

They could win 20 games if everything goes haywire, or they could surprise people and crack the 30-win mark--provided the youngsters improve and guys like Sanders and Ilyasova turn things around. At this point it's just difficult to judge how the pieces will ultimately fit and work together, but as long as we're still talking about Giannis and Jabari as potential all-stars I'll be happy.

And when you consider that Jabari Parker, Brandon Knight, and Larry Sanders aren't playing, their success is even more surprising. Jason Kidd has made a lot of enemies around these parts, but he's been doing a good job with his young team.

Speaking of Kidd, he did something pretty curious this week. He benched starting forward and League Pass favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wednesday against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kidd didn't really bother to explain why he did it, but it's in the past now. Giannis returned on Friday and had 23 points along with nine rebounds. He'll be dealing with Joe Johnson once again. The two of them went move for move last time they faced and Johnson ultimately came out ahead. He has the size advantage over Giannis when he goes down to the low post, but Giannis' length makes him incredibly difficult to score on.

Another day, another terrific game from Brook Lopez. He led the team in scoring once again and has been Brooklyn's best player coming down the stretch. He went to work the last time he saw Milwaukee, scoring 32 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. He's gonna need a lot more help from his teammates on the glass. Milwaukee grabbed 38 (that's right, thirty-eight) offensive rebounds and won the rebound battle by 28. Lopez gets a lot of the heat for the team's rebounding woes, but that's never been completely fair. That being said, he'll be matched up with Zaza Pachulia again.

Player to watch: O.J. Mayo

Mayo isn't the starting guard for the Bucks anymore, but he's still playing. He's been a bit better this year as compared to last for Milwaukee, getting to the line a bit more while cutting down on his three point attempts. Khris Middleton is the starting two guard for the Bucks and Mayo will get around 24 to 25 minutes this afternoon.

With Anderson out, Bojan Bogdanovic will be responsible for picking up the slack. His game has been inconsistent throughout the year, and with three games left to go, will need to stay on a hot streak in order to keep Brooklyn in a playoff spot. Bogdanovic helps space the floor and with Deron Williams running point, will see plenty of good looks from three point range.

From the Vault

The Bucks made three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1980s. Unfortunately for them, they ran into Larry Bird and the Celtics twice. You can imagine how that went.

More reading: Brew HoopIndy Cornrows, and Celtics Blog