Mallards face favorable schedule in playoff hunt

MADISON, Wis. — With the Northwoods League playoffs approaching, the Madison Mallards have some ground to make up, though their postseason hopes still remain very much alive.

Playoff format

The Northwoods League playoff field expanded in 2015 from four to eight teams, with the top four teams from each division (North and South) earning a playoff bid. Those playoff berths are based on overall record, with the division winner of each half of the season earning an automatic home playoff game.

The first two days of the playoffs are single elimination games, with the third and final day of competition a best-of-three series.

Standings as of Aug. 5 at 9:30 a.m.
















If the playoffs started today…

As shown in the graphic, Madison remains 12 ½ games behind Wisconsin Rapids in the overall season standings and is on the outside looking in. With eight games remaining on their schedule, the Mallards cannot earn a No. 1 seed.

Sorting the graphic by half, Madison remains left out of the postseason, sitting in sixth place.

Madison can reach the playoffs if…

The second-half standings show the Mallards just 5½ games behind the Rockford Rivets. A come-from-behind win of the South Division would not only earn Madison a playoff spot, but a guaranteed game at home. To do that, Madison would need to win at least six of their final eight games, along with late season collapses by the teams ahead of them in the standings.

If Madison wants to earn the No. 4 seed in the overall South standings, they would need to catch the Lakeshore Chinooks (1½ games head) who they will play for a two-game series Saturday and Sunday. That can be achieved by sweeping the weekend series. Helping their cause is a two-game series Thursday and Friday against the Wisconsin Woodchucks, who sit nine games behind Madison overall.

The only other South Division team left on Madison’s schedule is Battle Creek (five games ahead). The Mallards will host the Bombers for the final two games of the regular season Aug. 12 and Aug. 13.

Remaining schedule

Aug. 5 and Aug. 6 vs Lakeshore (34-29, 0.540)

Aug. 7 and Aug. 9 vs Green Bay (21-41, 0.339)

Aug. 10 and Aug. 11 @ Wisconsin (24-40, 0.375)

Aug. 12 and Aug. 13 vs Battle Creek (37-25, 0.597)

Madison’s remaining opponents combine for a winning percentage of 0.463.


Bucks steal game 1 in Toronto 97-83

TORONTO — The Milwaukee Bucks hadn’t won a road playoff game one in 17 tries, but 28 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo helped snap that trend in a 97-83 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Antetokounmpo shot 72 percent from the field in the win, adding eight rebounds and two steals to the stat sheet. Perhaps more importantly, his supporting cast did their part, with five other Bucks players scoring in the double digits. Greg Monroe was particularly effective, logging 14 points and 15 rebounds off the bench.

Toronto scored just 32 points in the second half, struggling to 36 percent shooting overall. The Raptors couldn’t take advantage of 47 total rebounds, turning the ball over 10 times. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 27 points and eight rebounds.

Bucks clinch at least a six seed in playoffs with win over Hornets

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks can do no worse than a No. 6 seed in the postseason after taking down the Charlotte Hornets 89-79 Monday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists marked his eighth triple double of the season, in which the Bucks are 7-1. Tony Snell and Greg Monroe led Milwaukee in scoring with 16 points apiece, while holding Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky III to three points on 1-of-12 shooting from the field.

The Bucks not only crashed the boards with a 45-39 advantage over the Hornets, but they shot 57 percent (16-of-28) from three-point range. They could improve in the turnover department, however, allowing Charlotte 16 opportunities to stay in the game.

Playoff Seeding Scenarios
MIL is a No. 6 seed with a win or a loss at BOS
MIL is a No. 5 seed with a win at BOS, plus two losses by ATL

If the Playoffs Started Today…
Bucks (6) vs Raptors (3): TOR leads season series 3-1
Last game: Mar. 4 | MIL 101, TOR 94

Milwaukee’s win over Charlotte gave the Bucks a 42-39 record, securing a winning season for just the sixth time in the last 26 years.

Bucks move into tie for fifth place with win over Hawks

MILWAUKEE — The BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd started chanting “Fear the Deer!” as the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Atlanta Hawks 100-97 Friday night, moving into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s performance was part of the reason for the celebration as he logged his second straight double double with 34 points and 13 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon added 14 points and seven assists to give Milwaukee its 11th victory in 13 outings.

”It was a playoff-type game. Everybody is fighting for pole position,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.

Milwaukee led by as many as 13 before Atlanta went on a 13-2 run in the second quarter to trim the deficit to two by halftime. But 17 turnovers wreaked havoc on the Hawks’ efforts to establish offensive continuity in the game. Atlanta did win the rebounding battle 49-35.

The Hawks had a late opportunity to send it to overtime, with former Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova taking a contested three-pointer with less than a second remaining. It clanged off the rim to encapsulate what’s been a difficult stretch for the Hawks.

Atlanta has now lost six in a row and is forced to share its fifth-place standing with Milwaukee — a team fighting for a playoff spot with 10 games remaining. The Bucks host the Bulls on Sunday afternoon, having won all three previous meetings this season.

Bucks chasing down slim playoff chances

LOS ANGELES — When the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, they’ll do so with slim odds of making the postseason. projects the Bucks to finish with a 39-43 record, good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and two spots out of the playoff spot. That translates to a 37 percent chance of making the postseason, but with just a 24 percent probability of beating the Clippers, those odds may dwindle further on this six-game road trip.

The Bucks had won six in a row heading into Memphis Monday night, but failed to capitalize on what should have been a very winnable game. With 11 of their remaining 16 games on the road, Milwaukee will have to improve on its road record of 12-18 (.400) if it wants to make the postseason for the second time in three years. Six of Milwaukee’s remaining games come against teams with winning records.

The preseason hamstring injury to Khris Middleton severely hampered the Bucks’ three-point shooting, but Milwaukee’s luck got even worse once Middleton returned prior to the All Star break. One has to wonder how Jabari Parker’s second ACL tear affects the team and where it may have been had Parker stayed healthy.

Milwaukee’s playoff chances peaked on Jan. 4 when it was 18-16, following a 105-104 win over the New York Knicks. gave the Bucks a 1541 rating, which was slightly above the average rating of 1500.

With a tough schedule remaining and down a key player, will the Bucks pack it in and try better next year? If they miss the playoffs, will people give coach Jason Kidd a pass or hold him accountable?


Nelson’s status could be biggest factor in Packers divisional round vs Cowboys

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Perhaps somewhat lost in the celebration of a 38-13 wild card win over the New York Giants, the Green Bay Packers may have to prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys next week without top receiver Jordy Nelson.

Playing without Nelson is nothing new to the Packers, having played all of the 2015 season without him (torn ACL). But after suffering a rib injury, coach Mike McCarthy is “concerned” about Nelson’s health now facing the Cowboys in Dallas Sunday afternoon. He had no update on Neson’s status after Sunday’s win, but presumably will give an update later this week. The Kansas State product has put up monster numbers this year in a return from the ACL injury: 97 receptions, 1,257 yards, 14 touchdowns (NFL best).

As Nelson, 31, continues to age, the Packers had been using him in the slot more often. Randall Cobb helped make up for Nelson’s absence, playing through an ankle injury to put up the NFL’s first 100-yard, three touchdown performance in the postseason since Rob Gronkowski in 2011.

“I think everybody just kind of stuck to our job, tried to put ourselves in position to make the plays when they were there, when we had those opportunities,” Cobb said. “We hate seeing one of our guys go down but we’ve got to continue to play.”


Packers playoff hopes don’t necessarily hinge on beating Lions

DETROIT — A longtime mantra of Packers coach Mike McCarthy is to never talk about the playoffs until they reach 10 wins on the season. A victory over Detroit would do that, while also clinching the NFC North title and a home game in the postseason.

But Green Bay can still clinch a playoff berth without beating Detroit. Here is a look at some of the Packers’ playoff scenarios.

Packers make the playoffs IF:

  • Win vs DET
  • Tie vs DET
  • Loss vs DET plus WSH loss to NYG and TB loss to CAR

Packers earn No. 3 seed IF:

  • Win vs DET plus SEA loss to SF

Packers earn No. 4 seed IF:

  • Win vs DET

Packers earn No. 6 seed IF:

  • Loss vs DET but clinch wild card

Here are the current NFL playoff matchups according to