Jazz vs. Bucks: Fighting to stay in the playoff race

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks host the Utah Jazz as both teams jostle to keep their places or move up in their respective playoff races.

The Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks meet at the Bradley Center on Monday in similar spots. Both sit toward the bottom of their conference playoff standings with the over-simplified situation of having destiny in their own hands.

It's not that easy. Destiny in the NBA isn't easily corralled by teams that aren't good enough to be considered conference contenders but still have targets on their backs as they try to hold down tickets to the postseason.

In the Western Conference, the Jazz (32-27) sit tied with the Houston Rockets 14 games back of the lead, yet they have played two fewer games. They're a half-game behind the Golden State Warriors for the sixth playoff spot, but then there are the lurking Los Angeles Lakers, who are 2.5 games behind in the standings.

Milwaukee, in the Eastern Conference's eighth slot, runs much less a risk of falling out of the playoffs with Philadelphia 6.5 games behind them. But the Bucks are 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics, and the seventh spot is a much-coveted one. The difference at this point between the two positions would be a first-round playoff match-up for the eighth seed against the defending champion Miami Heat, who are currently on a 14-game winning streak, while the seventh seed would be taking on the less explosive Indiana Pacers.

Utah is coming off a win on Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats that ended a three-game losing skid. The Jazz came away with a win despite missing big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to sprained ankles.

The Bucks are on a three-game winning streak and could be running on the same fumes that propelled them to a 122-114 overtime win against the Raptors on Saturday that saw Brandon Jennings drop a career-high 19 assists.

Turkish big men give a boost

Both the Jazz and the Bucks have received help from their Turkish big men of late. For Milwaukee, Ersan Ilyasova scored 29 points in the win against the Raptors and is averaging 16.9 points over the course of his last 10 games. He has scored in single-digits only once in that stretch.

Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Enes Kanter scored 23 points and grabbed 22 rebounds -- both personal bests -- in his second career start, easily making up for the loss of Jefferson and Millsap in a 30-point clubbing of the Bobcats.

Last time out

In the only meeting between the Jazz and Bucks this season, Utah used its beefed up front to bully Milwaukee around the court for a 100-86 win. Utah outrebounded a Milwaukee team that was without Larry Sanders by 13. Jefferson, Millsap, Derrick Favors and Kanter combined for 64 points on 59 percent shooting while equaling the Bucks' rebounding total of 37.

Injury update

Both Millsap and Jefferson are game-time decisions with their sprained ankles, according to Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: FS-Wisconsin / Root Sports

Odds: The Bucks opened as 4.5-point favorites.

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