Bucks vs. Rockets preview: No. 8 seeds tip off Wednesday night

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The eighth seed from the Eastern Conference tips off against the eighth seed from the Western Conference on Wednesday night.

By this point in the season, one could argue that there are only a select few teams realistically still fighting to reach the postseason. Two of those teams will take the court when the Houston Rockets host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

The current No. 8 seeds from the East and West, respectively, Milwaukee and Houston are both battling to return to the playoffs after years of lottery picks. The last time the Bucks made the postseason was 2009-10, Brandon Jennings' rookie season, while the Rockets haven't been since 2008-09, the end of the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era.

Neither team is on the brink of blowing its playoff spot, but they're both a losing streak away from very different circumstances. The Rockets are three games ahead of the Lakers, with the Mavericks and Blazers in the mix there as well, while the Bucks are five games ahead of both the Raptors and 76ers.

For the most part, the Bucks have been fortunate to have such weak competition, but the Rockets have actually been playing quite well since a mid-January slide. Since Jan. 25, the team has won nine of 14 games, though it's coming off a loss to the Washington Wizards in which it blew a 17-point second half lead.

Rockets rookie Donatas Motiejunas is getting his first career start for the Rockets, as The Dream Shake, SB Nation's Rockets blog, notes.

Part of why the Bucks likely felt comfortable pulling the trigger on the J.J. Redick trade was the team's recent slide. Beginning with a 16-point loss to the Bulls on Jan. 30, the Bucks have dropped nine of their past 12 games, though they've split their first two games with Redick in the lineup.

Will Redick make a huge difference in the postseason? Probably not, but he makes Milwaukee better, and that's something. Steve von Horn of BrewHoop, SB Nation's Bucks blog, gives some perspective:

A championship parade is not coming to Milwaukee this summer, but the action should be exciting in the BMO Harris Bradley Center down the stretch. We owe it to ourselves as tortured fans to sit back and enjoy some legitimately interesting basketball.

The game begins at 8 p.m. ET.

Can Houston win the long game?

Last Saturday night, the Rockets made a whole bunch of three-pointers early against the Wizards and decided that would be their strategy for the game. And then, poof, the numbers evened out, and Washington raced back from down 17 to win.

Houston was left with nothing but the league's season-high for three-point attempts in a game with 46.

While it may have seemingly made sense for the Rockets to rain three-pointers on Washington after the hot start, the plan missed one key aspect of the entire situation: the Wizards are actually really good at defending three-pointers. The fourth-best team in the NBA, in fact.

Against Milwaukee, it will be intriguing to see whether the Rockets once again turn to the three-pointer with such aggressiveness against another good perimeter defense. An athletic bunch, the Bucks are seventh in the league in three-point field goal percentage allowed.

To be fair, three-pointers will be part of Houston's game plan pretty much every night, considering they take nearly 29 a game. Only the New York Knicks launch more shots from behind the arc.

However, it's reasonable to wonder whether toning down that strategy might be best Wednesday night.

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