The Milwaukee Bucks close out their regular season on the road Sunday night against the host Chicago Bulls.
With a victory and Brooklyn loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, the Bucks (46-25) will move up to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference via a tiebreaker over the Nets.
Milwaukee, which has won three in a row, faced the team it is likely to play in the first round should the current seedings remain the same after Sunday’s action. The Bucks posted a 122-108 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday behind 21 points apiece from Khris Middleton and Bryn Forbes and Jrue Holiday’s 20 points and 10 assists.
“It’s about being consistent and being in a good groove (going into the playoffs),” Holiday said. “I think at this point in the season we’ve done a pretty good job of really just coming out every game and trying to prepare like every game is a playoff game.”
The Bucks’ hopes of winning the 2020 NBA championship ended with a 4-1 series loss in the second round to Miami.
Milwaukee has yet to get a full picture of its potential first-round foe as Miami’s Jimmy Butler hasn’t played in any of the three games between the teams this season.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, if they beat us in the past or if we beat them in the past,” Middleton said. “We know at this point, everybody’s trying to play their best basketball, so each night we have to bring it.”
Middleton, however, has been ruled out against Chicago with left ankle soreness, the team announced Sunday afternoon.
The Bulls (30-41) are winding down a disappointing finish to the 2020-21 season, and didn’t do the Bucks any favors by dropping a 105-91 decision to Brooklyn on Saturday.
Patrick Williams scored a career-high 24 points for the Bulls, the highest total of his rookie season. Thaddeus Young added 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Chicago was eliminated from contention for the play-in tournament on Friday after the Washington Wizards defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season and for the fifth time in the past six years. It’s the team’s longest postseason drought since a six-year gap following the end of the Michael Jordan era that brought the franchise six titles.
The Bulls had hopes of making a playoff run after acquiring Nikola Vucevic, but went 11-17 after the trade deadline.
“So it wasn’t what we thought it would be obviously as far as the results in the end,” Vucevic said. “But I think that there were some positives for us to build upon and hopefully go into next year with these few months that we did spend together.”
The Bulls, who have won four of their past six, have questions to address about their roster going forward. Namely, whether Lauri Markkanen will be back as he heads into restricted free agency this offseason.
“I would just say this: I really, really love Lauri as a player,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said this past week. “He’s a great guy. And he has been an incredible teammate. And he has sacrificed a lot.”
Chicago played without Zach LaVine (right knee tendinitis), Daniel Theis (right hip), Troy Brown Jr. (sprained left ankle) and Tomas Satoransky (sprained left ankle) against Brooklyn.
Milwaukee still remains one of the healthiest teams among the league’s top contenders heading into the playoffs, with only Axel Toupane out with a right oblique strain.
–Field Level Media