Bucks turn focus to finishing strong
APR 06, 2013 11:23p ET
MILWAUKEE -- It's done.
Though it may have taken a bit longer than anticipated to make it official after having lost seven of 10 games, the Milwaukee Bucks will be back in the playoffs for the first time in three years.
"We kind of hit a rough patch here toward the end, but we had some good patches, too, during the regular season which enabled us to get to this position," coach Jim Boylan said Saturday night. "It's pretty nice to be able to clinch and still have six games left. It's very satisfying for us."
The Bucks' 100-83 victory over the Toronto Raptors at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, combined with Philadelphia's loss to Miami, was enough for Milwaukee to punch its ticket to the playoffs three years to the day since it last secured a berth.
"It feels great," Bucks guard Monta Ellis said after his 22-point, nine-assist outing. "Now we can start getting focused on finishing the season and trying to get a positive edge for the playoffs."
Center Larry Sanders got back to his shot blocking ways against the Raptors by swatting six shots and said after the game that Milwaukee accomplished one of its main goals by qualifying for postseason play.
"This is what we've been working for all year," Sanders noted. "To finally accomplish that is great."
Only three players remain from the team 2010 team that last reached the postseason: Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute. That team went into the playoffs with a bit of momentum, winning five of its final seven games, a feat this Bucks squad will try and replicate with six games remaining on its schedule.
Ilyasova remembers that team fondly, saying it was exciting to be a part of the Bucks taking Atlanta to seven games in the first round. But he knows it’s no longer 2010.
"This playoff experience is going to be different for us. We have to put a lot more effort," said Ilyasova, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds. "We kind of have to build up whatever we did during the season. This is the most important time of the year for us. You play the whole season just to be in this spot."
Although their place in the postseason is guaranteed, the Bucks' seed is still in doubt.
Milwaukee sits two games behind seventh-seeded Boston, which also has six games remaining. A trip to the defending champion Heat awaits the Bucks, a daunting task for any team to face the NBA's top squad in a best-of-seven series.
Yet, the Bucks seem unfazed at those prospects, preferring not to look ahead and focus on themselves instead.
Ellis noted the team wasn't scoreboard watching during the game and that it didn’t find out about Miami's large lead until halftime.
Ilyasova was a bit more blunt with his assessment of future playoff seeding.
"We don't care if it's the sixth, seventh or eighth. In order to do something you just have to win," he said. "It doesn't really matter to me at this point. We are a playoff team, and we have to play like one."
For Boylan, the task at hand is to balance keeping his players healthy and rested with trying to get a more favorable matchup.
"We have to be smart,” he said. “At this point, we just want to digest everything and see where we are. I don't have any definitive answers for that other than to say we just want to keep winning games and end the season on a positive note. Whoever we end up playing we end up playing."
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