MILWAUKEE, Wis. (AP) — Joe Smith has a plea for all his
dejected teammates and the anguished fans of the Milwaukee Bucks,
who squandered home-court advantage in the playoffs by losing 89-87
to Toronto last night.

Forgive and forget.

He wants everybody to focus on the surprising, energetic team
that won twice as many games as expected, and not on the fatigued,
jittery outfit that lost its poise and a fourth-quarter lead in the
last three games.

A victory in any of the three would have secured the fourth
playoff position in the East. Instead the Bucks fell to the sixth
spot and will open the postseason Sunday at Detroit.

“We just have to realize this is the second season and we
can’t just continue to harp on what we did these last three
games,” Smith said. “We have to go into the playoffs
with a high level of confidence and let’s go out there and slug it
out.”

The crowd booed the Bucks at the end, but Smith said he hopes
the fans forget the trio of letdowns “because a lot of people
didn’t expect us to win 20 games.”

The Bucks began the night in fourth place in the Eastern
Conference, but both Miami and New Orleans leapfrogged them.

“We had destiny in our own hands,” Smith said.
“For us to come up short is disappointing.”

New Orleans 94, Washington 78

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just in time for the playoffs, Baron
Davis got healthy.

Just in time for the end of the season, Gilbert Arenas got
lax.

Davis scored 26 points last night in his second game back from
an ankle injury, helping the New Orleans secure the fifth seed in
the Eastern Conference with a 94-78 victory over the New Orleans
Hornets.

The Hornets will open the playoffs on the road against Miami on
Sunday.

“It’s a good time of the year,” coach Tim Floyd
said. “I’m pleased that we did win our last two on the road.
Baron looked better tonight than he was the last game, which is the
way it should be. I thought he played inspired and he played
hard.”

Jamaal Magloire added 23 points and 14 rebounds as the Hornets
(41-41) also avoided their first losing season since 1991-92.

“We have a golden opportunity to do something
special,” said Davis, who missed nine games with a sprained
left ankle. “A best-of-seven games is going to give us the
confidence that we can go in and know we can beat
someone.”

Miami 96, New Jersey 84

MIAMI, Fla. (AP) — Miami Heat players sat in the locker
room last night and screamed at the TV, trying to steer their
fate.

To earn home-court advantage for their first playoff series in
three years, they needed a Toronto victory over Milwaukee. And so
when a 3-pointer by the Jalen Rose put the Raptors ahead with 5.2
seconds left, the Heat erupted.

“J-Rose!” center Brian Grant shouted.

“That’s my dawg!” guard Dwyane Wade hollered.

Moments later, Milwaukee’s final shot missed, and Heat players
swapped high-fives as though they’d won the game themselves. The
Bucks’ loss, coupled with Miami’s 96-84 victory over New
Jersey 30 minutes earlier, meant the Heat will open a best-of-seven
series at home Sunday night against New Orleans.

“That’s what we came here tonight to do, and it went our
way,” guard Rafer Alston said. “We took care of our
end, and Toronto took care of their end.”

The game was meaningless for the Nets, but they learned their
first-round opponent: the rival New York Knicks, beginning Saturday
in New Jersey.

“It will be like a finals atmosphere because of the
market,” New Jersey guard Jason Kidd said. “A series
like this comes down to the ‘X’ factor, and somebody
always steps up. Hopefully, it will be somebody on our
team.”

Minnesota 107, Memphis 90

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped
up the top seed in the Western Conference while giving a lesson in
playoff style to the newcomer Grizzlies.

Behind Kevin Garnett’s 26 points and Latrell Sprewell’s 20, the
Timberwolves dominated the Grizzlies 107-90 last night.

The Grizzlies are seeded sixth for the first playoff appearance
for the franchise. They will play defending NBA champion San
Antonio.

“This is playoff basketball,” said the
Grizzlies’ Lorenzen Wright. “If we don’t know what it’s
going to be like now, we better get ready, because that’s exactly
how teams are going to be playing us.”

The Timberwolves ended the season with nine straight victories
and had no problems the Grizzlies from the start, leading by as
many as 29 points early in the fourth quarter.

“I told everybody before the game, let’s not look back on
this and say we should have done this or we should have done
that,” Garnett said. “We were more conscious of what we
had to do, put it like that.”

Minnesota was so comfortable by the final period that the
starters stayed on the bench.

“Our guys were focused,” said Minnesota coach Flip
Saunders. “The difference in this team and in the past teams
is that we’re a great defensive team now.”

Memphis, losing its fourth straight, never led, and Minnesota
dominated the boards, outrebounding the Grizzlies 42-28.

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