After an embarrassing collapse at the end of last season, Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl is looking forward to leading him team into the playoffs.
Fresh off clinching a postseason berth, the Bucks welcome another playoff-bound team to the Bradley Center, the Indiana Pacers.
Milwaukee, which lost 14 of its last 19 games to drop out of the playoff race in 2001-02, averted a repeat performance, nailing down at least the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with Friday’s 105-103 victory over Toronto.
Karl was relieved to say the least.
“That’s just how this game goes,” he said. “We were a little fortunate and I’m happy that we’re back after being out of the playoffs for a year. It’s exciting that we have a couple of days to prepare and relax and to try and keep doing what we’ve been doing, which has been playing pretty good basketball.”
“We’re just going to enjoy it,” said Cassell. “We’re in the playoffs, back where we’re supposed to be.”
Indiana, which currently holds the fourth seed in the East, is coming off a costly 98-86 home loss to Orlando on Friday.
The Pacers squandered an opportunity to move into third place in the East and remain within one game of conference-leading Detroit.
“I told them that I thought they had become one of the most selfish groups of players that I have seen in a while,” Indiana coach Isiah Thomas said.
“I think the way we’re playing now offensively is just selfish. We don’t move the basketball, we don’t set screens for each other, we don’t share.
“One of the toughest things to get young players individually and collectively to do is think team. Everybody is trying to make their mark. Everybody wants to be an All-Star and show what he can do. Right now, that’s what’s hurting us.”
Jermaine O’Neal had 23 points and 13 rebounds for Indiana, which has lost two straight.
The Pacers have three games remaining, while the Bucks have only two left.
STANDINGS: Pacers - 2nd place, 2 GB, Central Division. Bucks - 4th place, 8 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 20.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg; Tinsley, 7.5 apg. Bucks - Payton, 20.6 ppg and 8.3 apg; Desmon Mason, 6.6 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Pacers, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 28; Pacers, 107-98. At Indiana, Brad Miller scored a season-high 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Pacers won their sixth straight while handing the Bucks their third loss in a row.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pacers - 15-24 on the road. Bucks - 23-16 at home.