WASHINGTON - This certainly wasn't the result that Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles was looking for.
Skiles was hoping that his Milwaukee Bucks, who had lost three of their four previous games, would sweep into Washington on Wednesday and get back on track against a bad Wizards team. Washington would be the worst team in the NBA if not for Charlotte, which is threatening to record the lowest winning percentage in league history.
But it didn't work out that way for the Bucks, who are the 76ers' chief rival for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs - which begin next weekend. The Wizards turned in an inspired effort against the Bucks' spotty defense, connecting on 55.7 percent of their shots from the field and, behind a season-high 32 points from guard Jordan Crawford, dealt Milwaukee a 121-112 defeat at the Verizon Center.
"Wrong time to have a bad game," Skiles said.
That defeat - coupled with Thursday night's 118-109 loss to the molten-hot Indiana Pacers - left the Bucks three games behind the idle Sixers (32-30). For the Pacers, who already had locked up a playoff spot, it was their seventh win in a row.
After Thursday's game against the Pacers, the Bucks - like the Sixers - have four games remaining in the regular season. This includes an April 25 clash in Milwaukee with the Sixers that may determine which team reaches the playoffs and which heads for the lottery.
Before they face the Sixers, the Bucks have home games against New Jersey and Toronto. After the Sixers game, they close out the season against Atlantic Division champion Boston. The Celtics likely will rest their top players for that game in anticipation of the start of the playoffs.
Skiles doesn't like to look that far ahead, though. He did not downplay the importance of next week's game with the Sixers, but he did point out that it was important for the Bucks to take care of the teams they play before that game.
"We have to approach this like we have to win all of our games now because, well, that's just the way it is," Skiles said. "We have one thing fortunate for us, and that's that we do have one more game with Philadelphia. So there is a night coming up where we can gain a full game on Philadelphia with a win. But the important thing for us is to win the games before that for that game to matter."
To help their push for the playoffs, the Bucks made a blockbuster trade last month with Golden State in which they acquired Monta Ellis, reportedly a player the Sixers once were interested in; Ekpe Udoh; and Kwame Brown for former overall top pick Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson.
Ellis has demonstrated his ability to score - he dropped 31 on the Wizards on 14-for-25 shooting - and has fit in nicely in the backcourt alongside Brandon Jennings. His addition, however, has not translated into victories against quality opponents. Including Thursday's loss, the Bucks are just 1-8 in games against teams with winning records.
"There has been some inconsistency," Skiles said. "We were starting to score better before we made the trade. But our biggest problem, as you saw [Wednesday], is that sometimes we just can't stop anybody. We have put ourselves in a situation where we have to win every game that's in front of us. That's the only way to look at this.