MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks finally have something to play for in March.
With a month and a half left in the season, Milwaukee (29-33) surpassed its win total in each of the last two years and has the most victories since going 40-42 in 2005-06 and reaching the postseason.
"We're pulling it together and guys are picking it up," said Charlie Bell, who had 12 points and is one of the few players remaining from those older squads. "Right now, we feel like there's a lot of new players, new coaching staff, a whole new regime. We've put the other years behind us."
While the Bucks remain four games under .500, they control their playoff hopes this year by continuing to hold the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a one-game lead over New Jersey and Chicago -- despite missing key starters Michael Redd (knee) and Andrew Bogut (back).
"This will be one of the bigger stories in the league with all the injuries and all the trades, new faces, to weather that storm and to make it would be pretty amazing," said Jefferson, who came to Milwaukee from New Jersey in a draft day trade for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. "But it's not story-writing time right now."
Milwaukee never trailed against the Wizards, opened a double-digit lead in the opening minutes and was never seriously threatened to win its fourth straight over Washington.
Milwaukee also avoided losing three in a row for the first time since early December.
"I wouldn't say it was easy, but it was very convincing. It was a win we felt like we needed to have after losing two in a row against Dallas and New Orleans," Ramon Sessions said.
Sessions had 12 points and 10 assists, reserve Dan Gadzuric added 10 points and 11 rebounds and rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 13 points.
Washington never looked interested in defense, allowing Milwaukee to shoot 52 percent, including 11-of-19 from 3-point range.
On Friday night, the Bucks trailed by 17 with four minutes left against the Hornets and rallied to take a lead only to lose by one when Tyson Chandler tipped in a missed shot in the closing seconds.
Washington would mount no such challenge despite getting 21 points and 14 rebounds from Antawn Jamison. Caron Butler scored 19 and Nick Young added 13 for the Wizards, who had an inspired 113-90 victory over Chicago on Friday night.
But without President Barack Obama in the crowd, the Wizards disappeared like they've done all season, languishing in the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
"You can't match that energy," Butler said. "That's the president of the United States."
Maybe they couldn't, but Mike James thought there was no excuse for their pitiful performance.
"It isn't about the energy of playing in front of the president. It was the energy that we played with last night period that helped us win that game," he said. "We had to at least come out tonight and play with a sense of urgency. We didn't."
But Washington has nothing but a high draft pick left to play for, while Milwaukee is trying to keep the Bulls, Nets, Knicks and Pacers out of the final playoff spot. The Bucks will get ample chances against those contenders with five of their final 20 games against them starting Tuesday night against New Jersey.
"Right now, it's the final stretch," Jefferson said. "We have 20 games to make our claim to be a playoff team."
Interim coach Ed Tapscott joked that he'd tell the Wizards in his pregame talk that the president thought so highly of their win over the Bulls that he was planning to watch them on TV. ... U.S. Senator and Bucks owner Herb Kohl was in the crowd in his usual seat about five rows behind the scorer's table. "We're going to have to talk to Sen. Kohl about that. Tell the senator to get Obama here to Milwaukee," Bell joked. ... Milwaukee has scored at least 100 points in eight straight home games.
The Warriors have a stable of young assistants waiting to take the next step in their development under head coach Steve Kerr.
The Celtics and coach Brad Stevens love the versatility of swingman Evan Turner, but might court other free agents before circling back to him.
Marc Stein says being offered the Lakers' head coaching job was too good of an opportunity to pass up for Luke Walton.