Sat. Final: Bucks 127, Warriors 120
Next game: Tuesday, March 10 vs. New York
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Richard Jefferson let out a big sigh, able to breathe a little easier now that the Milwaukee Bucks have started off their longest -- and most important -- homestand of the season with a win. Jefferson had a season-high 35 points and the Bucks held off a big rally by Jamal Crawford and beat the Golden State Warriors 127-120 on Saturday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
"Yeah, it was much needed," Jefferson said. "We had a couple of games where we couldn't get over that hump -- New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans -- just a couple of games where we felt like we were playing solid basketball, we just didn't have that experience and that little oomph down the stretch."
Those losses are part of a 3-7 stretch over the last 10 games for Milwaukee, which trails Chicago by a half-game for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite spending the next 17 days at home, the opponents get tougher starting with New York on Tuesday followed by New Orleans, Boston, Orlando and Portland.
"This is a big stretch for us, we've got to take care of home," said Charlie Bell, who finished with 16 points. "If we do that, we're going to stay right there (in the postseason chase)."
Milwaukee, missing Michael Redd (knee) and Andrew Bogut (back) most of the season, almost squandered this win because of Crawford's effort. The Bucks took a 102-89 lead with 9:15 left when Luke Ridnour hit a jumper, then swiped Anthony Randolph clean on defense and Bell converted a layup.
"We can't sit there and give our fans cardiac arrest," Bell said. "It seems like we've got the game won, we're cruising. The next thing you know, they bang down a couple of 3s and they're back in the game. We can't allow that to happen. We've got to put our foot down and keep teams down."
The Warriors got 23 points and 11 assists from Stephen Jackson, and 22 points from Corey Maggette in their returns after each missed Friday night's loss to Detroit because of injuries. But Crawford was the catalyst and stayed behind to receive treatment after the game.
"They hit some tough shots -- him and Stephen Jackson -- they're probably two of the toughest guys in the NBA to guard one-on-one," Bell said. "They're great ballhandlers and great shooters."
Crawford helped Golden State tie it by hitting three 3-pointers, including converting one as a four-point play. Crawford also sent a pretty pass to Jackson underneath for a layup and Jackson tied it at 104 with a free throw midway through the fourth. But Jackson missed his first attempt and the Warriors never took the lead.
"We didn't want to go home after getting blown out twice in a row," said Jackson, who also committed seven of the Warriors' 20 turnovers. "We wanted to come out tonight and have a better effort and compete. I think we did that for the most part. We gave ourselves a chance. They just made better plays down the stretch."
But Milwaukee pushed the lead back to 119-111 with 2:07 left after Jefferson scored six points in the span.
After matching 3-pointers by Crawford and Milwaukee's Charlie Villanueva, the Warriors cut it to 122-118 with 1:03 to play off a jumper by Marco Belinelli, who finished with 10 points, and two free throws by Maggette.
The Bucks failed to score on the ensuing possession, but Maggette's wide-open 24-footer never hit the rim and Milwaukee hit five of six free throws to seal it, including four by Ridnour, who finished with 17 points.
"As a veteran player, I need to be better with the ball and make better decisions and get the ball to the right person," Maggette said. "We had an opportunity tonight to win and kind of gave it away."
It was a bad end to a terrible trip for Golden State, which finished 1-3 with three straight losses. When the Warriors return home, they'll have to address rumors of unrest in the locker room and Monta Ellis' pending return after missing the trip because of ankle stiffness.
"We are trying to find an identity and finish this year up on a good note and give these young guys some confidence," Jackson said. "The biggest thing for us is to stay as positive as we can and get as many wins as we can."
Notes: Ronny Turiaf had 15 points for the Warriors. ... Ramon Sessions scored 15 points, Villanueva 14, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 11 and Keith Bogans 10 to give the Bucks seven players in double figures. ... Bogans matched a career-high with five steals. ... Warriors leading rebounder C Andris Biedrins (personal reasons) also was not with the team, and F Kelenna Azubuike (back) did not play. ... Jefferson has scored at least 20 points in six straight games. ... The Warriors have lost 14 of their last 16 on the road.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)