|Interim coach Prunty leads hot Bucks against Hawks|
MILWAUKEE -- After a midseason shakeup that saw head coach Jason Kidd relieved of his duties, the Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the hottest teams in the league, winning eight of their 10 games under interim coach Joe Prunty.
In the process, they've improved to seven games above .500 -- matching a season-best -- and now sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind Washington for the fourth seed and potential home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, and just two games behind a suddenly-resurgent Cavaliers squad, which sits third.
But the playoffs remain a long ways down the road and the Bucks have plenty of work to do before then, starting Tuesday night when they play host to the Atlanta Hawks at the Bradley Center.
Center John Henson will be out for a second straight game with soreness in his right hamstring but the Bucks are expecting to have forward Jabari Parker back in the lineup.
He also sat out Saturday at Orlando, the second half of a back-to-back set, as a preventative measure while he works his way back to full strength after missing nearly a year to undergo and recover from surgery to repair his left ACL.
Parker has looked good since his return. He's averaging 9.3 points on 48 percent shooting with 2.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists over four games.
The Bucks didn't make a move before the league's trade deadline last week but by adding Parker back into the fold, they were able to bolster their lineup without shaking up locker room chemistry -- a major factor as the team continues to adjust to Prunty's leadership.
"This is a good group going forward, this is who we are," forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "We're playing great right now, it feels good, the chemistry feels great. Hopefully, we stay the same moving forward.
"We're going to have our ups and downs moving forward, but right now it feels good. Just got to keep getting better."
While the Bucks are surging, it's been a tough year for the Hawks, who at 18-39 have already matched their loss total from all of last season and appear headed to the draft lottery.
They arrive in Milwaukee having won three of their last five, however, and are fresh off a 118-115 victory at Detroit Sunday.
Dewayne Dedmon tied his career-high with 20 points in that contest, starting at center in place of Miles Plumlee. Signed to a one-year contract last summer, Dedmon is averaging 10.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game this season, all of which are career-highs.
"(I'm) just trying to be aggressive, trying to change the game and do what I do," Dedmon said.
It was Dedmon's first start since returning from a stress fracture injury on Jan. 8 and head coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game that he plans to keep to keep Dedmon in that role for the time being.
"I think we'll probably stick with these starters and we'll just see what we want to do with Miles," Budenholzer said.