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Bucks secure playoff spot with win over Raptors

The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- Monta Ellis had 22 points, nine assists and six steals as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Toronto Raptors 100-83 on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, clinching a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia's loss to Miami helped Milwaukee lock up the playoff berth, Milwaukee's first since the 2009-10 season.

"We kind of hit a rough patch here towards the end, but we've had some good patches too at certain times during the season, which enabled us to be in this position," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "Pretty nice to be able to clinch when you have six games left."

After losing seven of its past nine games, Milwaukee led nearly the entire game and dominated from the outset. The Bucks led by as many as 32 points and held the Raptors to 36 percent shooting from the field.

The Bucks shot 47 percent from the field and had five players score in double figures, including Brandon Jennings with 16.

Larry Sanders finished with 12 points, highlighted by a couple of eye-popping dunks, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. Sanders' six blocks made him the first Bucks player with at least 200 since Elmore Smith in 1975-76.

"A lot of teams were passing out, so I didn't really have many attempts, but they were attacking tonight," said Sanders, who had only blocked eight shots in his past five games.

Alan Anderson led the Raptors (29-48) with 14 points. Quincy Acy scored a career-high 13 points, and Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar Derozan scored 12 each. The loss was Toronto's 10th consecutive to Milwaukee.

"We came out lethargic," Toronto coach Dwyane Casey said. "Had a hard time getting ourselves going. They dictated the tone of the game and we never got it back. Again, the NBA is a tough league. You have to be tough-minded in your approach. Tough-minded, not let frustration set in. We let frustration along with the Milwaukee Bucks spank us tonight."

The Bucks outscored Toronto 48-38 in the paint, 17-9 on second-chance points and 17-10 on fast-break points.

"I don't think we're tired," Raptors forward Amir Johnson said. "We just had turnovers, and transition points killed us. A lot of penetration points killed us and there goes your ball game right there."

Jennings and Sanders combined for 14 points in the first quarter as Milwaukee shot 53 percent and allowed just 16 Toronto points, the lowest first-quarter total for a Milwaukee opponent this season.

An Ellis 3-pointer with 8:59 to play in the second quarter gave Milwaukee a double-digit lead that would remain comfortable the rest of the game.

Toronto scored just four points in the first nine minutes of the third quarter and watched Milwaukee's lead grow from 19 at halftime to 32 points.

The Raptors opened the fourth quarter with a 13-7 push, but would never cut the Bucks' lead below 19 points as Milwaukee responded with an 8-2 run to push the lead up to 25.

As for the playoff berth, forward Mike Dunleavy seemed more concerned about the rest of the regular season.

"I guess it's good to be official," he said. "You want to get some momentum. You want to stay healthy. We would have liked to have moved up. I'm not sure how likely that is, but with the way it stands we've got a big task ahead of us."

NOTES: The Bucks trail the Boston Celtics by two games for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. ... Ellis' six steals were his lead-leading 10th game this season with five or more steals. ... Ekpe Udoh missed Saturday's game after spraining his right ankle against the New York Knicks on Friday night. Coach Jim Boylan said he wasn't sure if it would be a long term injury yet. ... Valanciunas was named Eastern conference rookie of the month for March prior to Toronto's game Friday. He averaged 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.07 blocks per game in 27.1 minutes. ... Sanders had grabbed at least 10 rebounds in eight straight games, the longest stretch of double-digit rebound games for the Bucks since Andrew Bogut's eight-game run in 2009-10. ... Andrea Bargnani missed his 14th consecutive game for the Raptors with an avulsion sprain in his right elbow. ... Milwaukee's 10-game winning streak over Toronto is the Bucks' longest active streak against any opponent.
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