The Milwaukee Bucks knew they had three tough games to begin their homestand. Though they won the first two, the third may prove to be the most difficult.
The Bucks will try to cool off the similarly red-hot Utah Jazz on Friday night in a matchup of teams on four-game win streaks.
Milwaukee (34-29) is one of the NBA's hottest teams, winning 13 of 16 to surge into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks have matched their win total from last season.
"Everybody's confidence is real high right now," rookie guard Brandon Jennings said. "A lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the season and had us almost picked last. We're here too, you know."
There may have been doubters before this four-game homestand started with matchups against division leaders Cleveland and Boston. The Bucks took advantage of LeBron James' absence to win 92-85 over the Cavaliers on Saturday and beat the Celtics 86-84 on Tuesday.
The latest contender standing in Milwaukee's way is Utah (42-22), shooting an NBA-best 49.1 percent and averaging 117.8 points during a 5-1 stretch.
"We have a Utah Jazz team coming into town and it's the same situation as Boston," Bucks center Andrew Bogut said. "If we just keep moving, you never know what could happen."
Bogut was the catalyst Tuesday with 25 points and 17 rebounds, and is averaging 17.4 and 11.4 over the last 11 games. He's also been a major factor on defense, ranking second in the league with 2.5 blocks per game.
"We still have a lot of season to go," Bogut said. "We're starting to do the right things and we're beating teams now that no one thinks we can beat."
The Jazz, meanwhile, have opened a four-game trip with two wins to improve to 10-2 on the road since Jan. 20. Utah shot 54.2 percent in a 132-108 rout of Chicago on Tuesday and 56.3 percent in Wednesday's 115-104 victory over Detroit, improving to 17-14 away from home.
"To have a winning road record, well we should have one if we are good enough to be in the playoffs, I think," coach Jerry Sloan said. "It's something that we should be able to do, win on the road and it is something that we haven't done that very well over the past few years."
Deron Williams has averaged 24.3 points and 12.7 assists in the last three road games. He led seven Utah players in double figures with 18 points and handed out 12 assists as the Jazz used a 35-14 second quarter to pull away from the Pistons.
"The second quarter was great -- that was a flawless quarter," said Williams, averaging 12.1 assists in his last 17 games. "We got a lot of stops, we shared the ball, and we got out and ran in transition."
Utah has won nine of 10 against Milwaukee, including a 112-95 home victory Jan. 10 as Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur posted double-doubles. The Bucks fell despite Carlos Delfino's season-high 28 points.
Delfino is averaging 16.8 points over the last four games.