With their eighth victory in nine games, the Bucks secured the
seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and will face New Jersey in
the first round of the playoffs. Orlando got the eighth seed and
will play the top-seeded Detroit Pistons.
Even though playoff seedings were at stake, neither team treated
the game with any sense of urgency. In fact, both teams acted like
it might have been better to lose this game and get the eighth
playoff seed to face Detroit, where star Ben Wallace is coming off an ankle injury, than the Nets.
Both coaches vehemently denied that they preferred to lose,
"This probably is not the matchup we wanted if we could have
picked,'' Magic coach Doc Rivers said. "I was hoping we would have
pulled this one out.''
Bucks coach George Karl said winning was more important than
jockeying for a preferable playoff matchup, especially with a new
rotation following the Feb. 20 trade that brought Mason and Gary
Payton over from Seattle.
"I'm very confident the winning, the momentum, the confidence
we've gained by winning eight of nine is immensely more important
than to try to figure out your matchup,'' Karl said.
Besides, Karl expects Wallace to play well in the first round
for the Pistons and thinks the Bucks might have gotten the better
end of the deal at any rate.
"If we get fortunate enough to beat New Jersey, we get a better
bracket for our personnel,'' he said. "We don't get to play the
bruisers. New Orleans and Philadelphia are in the other bracket.
So, we can play small and play our quick lineup and an athletic
lineup. We don't have to worry about playing a lot of bigs. That's
how we've been playing best.''
Still, neither coach managed the game as though victory was
Players who don't usually get meaningful minutes got plenty of
playing time, much to the chagrin of the fans at the Bradley
"Hey, Doc, it's $100 a ticket, put T-Mac in!'' a fan near the
Magic bench yelled at Rivers in the first quarter.
But McGrady didn't even have a uniform top on under his T-shirt.
"He has played a lot of minutes for us,'' Rivers said. "We
want him to be fresh going into the playoffs.''
Karl said Cassell had a sore right thumb "and he wanted to rest
it for another two to three days.''
Karl also wanted to sit out Payton, who ended up with 11 points
and 10 assists in 28 minutes.
With all the stars sitting out, Karl admitted the game "had a
little weirdness to it.''
"It wasn't weird for us,'' Mason argued. "We had a lot of fun
playing today. I think the younger guys had the opportunity to go
out and handle the ball.''
Michael Redd, who added 18 points for the Bucks, said the game
was good preparation for the playoffs, no matter the unusual
"It's going to help us out in the long run, guys playing out of
position tonight might help them in the playoffs,'' he said.
Pat Burke, who had 14 points for the Magic, said he looked at
the game as an audition for postseason playing time: "If I can get
some minutes in the playoffs because of this, it would be great.''
With Mason moving over to guard, Thomas made his first start
since he refused to re-enter a game at Denver on March 26. He had
15 points in the first half as the Bucks took a 48-43 halftime
The Magic, whose only lead was 2-0, got within a point several
times, including 82-81 on Shawn Kemp's jumper with 3:53 left, but
Thomas answered with a fadeaway basket and Orlando never could take
Bucks F Anthony Mason (right quadriceps) didn't dress for
the game. ... Both teams made roster moves before the game. The
Magic placed F Pat Garrity on the injured list with a strained
groin and activated F-C Olumide Oyedeji, and the Bucks placed F
Jason Caffey on the injured list with a sore back and activated F
Jamal Sampson. The moves don't affect the playoff rosters.