CHARLOTTE - While the Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, getting out of the first round will be a huge challenge given their recent poor play and a difficult opponent.
By virtue of Saturday night's 95-85 loss to the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats -- their ninth straight defeat on the road and their 11th in the last 14 games overall -- the Bucks will face the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Few will give the Bucks a chance to win even a game in the best-of-seven series. Heck, even Bucks swingman Mike Dunleavy called it a "monumental task."
If there's any bit of good news for the Bucks it's that they hope to get Larry Sanders and Brandon Jennings back for the postseason. Both sat out again against the Bobcats.
"We'll try to keep our guys fresh and keep them playing enough that they're feeling in a rhythm and ready to compete," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "I don't want to sit them out completely, but at the same time we want to be cautious."
Their absence was felt Saturday night.
Kemba Walker had 21 points, Josh McRoberts nearly had a triple-double and the Bobcats won for only the third time in their last 12 games.
McRoberts had a season-high 18 points, nine rebounds and a career-high nine assists.
Dunleavy had 19 points and Monta Ellis added 16 to lead the Bucks.
Charlotte led by five at the break and pushed the lead to 17 entering the fourth quarter.
The Bucks got within six with 23 seconds left, but the lead was never really in danger. Gerald Henderson made a pair of free throws and Biyombo sealed the win with a rim-rattling dunk with 10 seconds left.
Charlotte entered the game with its own struggles, but led the entire first half as Walker scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Charlotte dominated on the glass in the opening half, outrebounding the Bucks 27-15 before the break. Biyombo, who has stepped up his play in recent weeks, came up with eight early rebounds to set the tone for the Bobcats early on.
The Bobcats played through McRoberts on offense.
The big man, acquired in a trade from Orlando late in the season, routinely found teammates for open shots. He has been a workhorse for the Bobcats recently, averaging more than 39 minutes per game over the past eight games.
"I'm just getting an opportunity to handle the ball and I'm making plays for other guys," McRoberts said. "That's what I'm more comfortable with. I'm never going to be a guy who is going to score 30 points a night. But I think I can help make other guys better."
Said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap: "Josh brings a grittiness to our team."
Ellis, who had a career-high 17 assists Friday night at Atlanta, scored Milwaukee's first eight points of the second half to help the Bucks make a run. But that was short-lived as Biyombo took over inside and scored eight of his points in the third quarter, most of those coming in the paint.
RHINELANDER - People in Rhinelander will be able to cast their November election ballots starting on Friday. It's the earliest people in Wisconsin have ever been able to vote.
The absentee ballots are stacked and ready for Friday at the Rhinelander City Clerk's office. To make the early voting process go as smoothly as possible, you will need to come prepared.
"When you come in make sure that you're registered. That is important. Make sure you're registered in the city if you're coming into us," said Clerk Valerie Foley.
Registering is easy; all you need is a photo ID and proof of residence. The registration form takes a couple of minutes, and then you will be able to fill out an election ballot.
"I think it is going to be a very busy day. I think people are pretty interested in the issues. And I think a lot of them would like to get and make sure they can vote if they're not certain they're going to make it to the polls in November or not," said Foley.
The clerk's office has already sent out about 200 ballots to people who have requested them.
Now, it is preparing for the early voter in-person rush.
If you are unsure whether you are registered to vote or where to go for early voting, the clerk's office suggests voters visit myvote.wi.gov for more information.
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