The first-round playoff matchup between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks became official Saturday when the Boston Celtics clinched the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, relegating the Bucks to No. 8. The Heat locked up the No. 1 spot long ago.
The Celtics (41-39) entered Saturday needing only a win at Orlando or a Milwaukee (37-43) loss at Charlotte to lock up No. 7. They got both.
Game 1 of the series will be at American Airlines Arena either next Saturday or Sunday. After a second game in Miami, the series will shift to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4.
“It’s a tough place to play, the Bradley Center,’’ Heat center Chris Bosh said. “We’ve had a history of having very hard-fought games against those guys. So once the playoffs start, we have to make sure we take one game at a time, the old cliché. Just do what we’re supposed to do. And as long we do that, stick to our game plans, kind of get back into that playoff feel, we’ll be fine.’’
The teams have split the past eight games. But the Heat (63-16) won three of four during the regular season, including convincing wins in the past two meetings. They won 107-94 at Milwaukee on March 15 and 94-83 at home last Tuesday.
Looking at the big picture, though, the Bucks are confident about facing the Heat.
“Obviously, it’s the best team in the league and they got the best player in the league (in LeBron James),’’ Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute said. “But we’re definitely up for the challenge. We’ve played them well over the years since LeBron has been there (arriving in 2010-11). It’s always been competitive every time we’ve played them for the most part. It’s going to be the same thing in the playoffs. We’ve got to embrace the challenge and go out and compete.’’
Lately, however, Miami and Milwaukee have been heading in opposite directions. The Heat are 34-2 since Feb. 3 and the Bucks are 13-24 since Jan. 30, including having dropped 11 of their last 14 games.