Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 1/25

Game 1: Saturday, January 25th
Game 2: Wednesday, March 26th

Nuggets 75


Bucks 88

(21-21, 11-9 home)

Coverage: FSRM

7:30 PM ET, January 25, 2003

BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 27 12 19 1775
MIL 19 21 25 2388

Top Performers

Denver: N. Hilario 14 Pts, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 Stl

Milwaukee: S. Cassell 26 Pts, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

Bucks at .500 for first time in nearly two months

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks have finally evened their record, and they hope they can ride this streak right back into the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.


Sam Cassell scored 26 points and Ray Allen added 21 Saturday night as Milwaukee beat the Denver Nuggets 88-75 to reach .500 for the first time in nearly two months. The Bucks (21-21) have won seven of eight, and had not been at .500 since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30.

Milwaukee's run started with the Jan. 10 return of Toni Kukoc, who missed 18 games after undergoing right thumb surgery. The Bucks are 15-9 with Kukoc and 6-12 without him.

"Our team has gotten healthy,'' Cassell said. "We have a lot of players on this team who fit specific roles. Now that we are healthy, those guys are beginning to be able to focus on the things they do best on the floor. We now have a chance to get back in this thing.''

Milwaukee moved past the Washington Wizards into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

"We were so far below .500, but it was early,'' Allen said. "Now, we're at the point where we want to win basketball games no matter how we get it done. Tonight, it was kind of ugly, but we won and we're not going to complain about that.''

The Bucks visit New Orleans on Monday, then have eight consecutive home games.

"It's great to be back (to .500), but we still have a lot of work to do,'' Milwaukee coach George Karl said. "The schedule is friendly right now, but I'd still like to see us play better.''

Milwaukee used a 16-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to pull away from Denver, which has lost four consecutive games and seven straight on the road.

The Nuggets improved offensively from Friday night, when they were held to 58 points by Boston. Denver scored 27 in the first quarter but was limited to 48 points the rest of the way, missing 38 of 60 shots over the final three quarters.

"It seems to be our pattern, we play very well to a certain point and then we melt,'' coach Jeff Bzdelik said.

Denver averages an NBA-low 80 points per game, and has averaged only 33 second-half points in its last four games.

"We have to learn to win the game in the second half, too -- we can't not finish the second half,'' said leading scorer Juwon Howard, who missed the game against the Celtics due to a death in his family but returned against the Bucks.

Howard and Donnell Harvey each scored 15 points to lead the Nuggets.

Michael Redd, who had 18 points, started the decisive fourth-quarter run with a baseline jumper to give Milwaukee a 70-65 lead with 8:04 left. Allen finished the streak, scoring on a fast-break layup from Kukoc to give Milwaukee an 84-69 lead with 3:22 left.

The Nuggets never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

Milwaukee took the lead for good, 53-51, when Cassell found a driving Ervin Johnson for a layin with 3:38 left in the third quarter. Kukoc hit a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to give the Bucks a 65-58 lead after three quarters.

Game notes

Each team had key players missing. Denver C Marcus Camby missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. Bucks F Tim Thomas (sprained right shoulder) and F Jason Caffey (flu) did not dress. Thomas had been the only Milwaukee player to start every game this season. ... Allen has made 108 of his last 114 free throws. ... Denver is 0-10 on the road against Eastern Conference teams. ... Bucks rookie F Jamal Sampson, a second-round draft choice, made his NBA debut late in the fourth quarter. He had been on the injured list during the team's first 40 games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 75 88
FGM-FGA 35-84 (.417) 31-62 (.500)
3PM-3PA 1-8 (.125) 7-20 (.350)
FTM-FTA 4-6 (.667) 19-25 (.760)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-41 6-35
Assists 22 21
Turnovers 15 17
Steals 8 8
Blocks 2 4
Fast Break Points 3 4
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (1/0) 10 (4/0)

Top Performers

Nene Hilario Hilario
Points: 14
Reb: 8
Ast: 3
Stl: 4
Blk: 0
Sam Cassell Cassell
Points: 26
Reb: 8
Ast: 4
Stl: 1
Blk: 0