Daily Confidential

The New Orleans Hornets appear to have finally figured out to win despite missing key players. The Milwaukee Bucks are still learning.

The two injury-riddled teams meet Saturday at the Bradley Center, with the Hornets looking for their first three-game winning streak in nearly two months and the Bucks trying to end a season-high five-game losing skid.

The Hornets (14-22) have won consecutive games for the first time since a four-game run from Nov. 18-21, after Friday's 104-97 win over the Washington Wizards. Desmond Mason had 22 points and Rasual Butler added 20 for New Orleans, which continues to play without injured starters Chris Paul (ankle), Peja Stojakovic (back) and David West (elbow) as well as top reserve Bobby Jackson (ribs).

"We're gaining confidence right now. Before we were playing not to lose. Right now, we're playing to win,'' said Hornets guard Jannero Pargo, who scored 17 points off the bench. "We feel like we can win with the team we've got here right now, and we're playing like it.''

Despite the lack of healthy bodies, the Hornets turned in their best offensive effort since a 105-89 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 6, also the last time they scored more than 100 points. New Orleans has shot better than 50 percent from the field in each of its last two games after doing so just twice in its first 34 contests.

The Hornets have not shot 50 percent or better from the field in three consecutive games since April 14-17, 1998, when the franchise was located in Charlotte.

Mason has averaged 19.7 points in his last four games, despite a one-point effort in Wednesday's 96-77 victory at Atlanta. Butler, who has consecutive games of 20 or more points for the second time this season, is 16-for-29 (55.2 percent) from the field in his last two contests.

The Bucks (16-20) are trying to regroup from a 110-97 defeat Friday at Philadelphia that spoiled perhaps the best game of Andrew Bogut's career. The second-year center had 20 points and a career-high 24 rebounds - one game after setting his previous high of 18 as Milwaukee played without leading scorer Michael Redd (knee) and fellow starters Mo Williams (shoulder), Charlie Villanueva (shoulder) and Bobby Simmons (Milwaukee).

"We just ran out of gas in the second half,'' Bucks coach Terry Stotts said after his club let a 54-46 halftime lead slip away.

Milwaukee did get an immediate contribution from point guard Earl Boykins, who had 11 points and 11 assists in his debut after being acquired from Denver along with Julius Hodge for guard Steve Blake. But the 5-foot-5 Boykins struggled in the second half, scoring just one point and finishing 5-for-14 from the field.

"I felt I did OK, but it's hard to say you play well when you lose,'' Boykins said. "I really wanted to come in tonight and help the team get the win.''

Charlie Bell scored 26 points and is averaging 13.2 points in 11 games since re-entering the starting lineup on Dec. 22.

The teams have split the last three season series, but the Bucks have won five of the last seven meetings played in Milwaukee.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited