Preview: Magic hope to throw wrench into Bucks’ playoff seeding aspirations
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.
MILWAUKEE — With just two regular-season games left, the Milwaukee Bucks are assured of a spot when the postseason gets underway next week.
Where the Bucks will be seeded and who they’ll face in the opening round, however, is still up in the air, leaving plenty to play for Monday night when they host the Orlando Magic at the Bradley Center.
They’ll take the court Monday sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference field with Miami, which earns the sixth seed based on a tiebreaker, and a game ahead of eighth-place Washington.
Moving up would be welcomed but the Bucks would be happy to finish seventh. Not only would that allow them to avoid top-seeded Toronto as the eighth seed, a seventh-place finish sets up a first-round series against Boston, which lost point guard Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season.
The Bucks kept pace Saturday, knocking off the Knicks 115-102 despite playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was resting a sore ankle. He’s expected to return Monday as is point guard Malcolm Brodgdon, who’s missed the last two months with a torn left quadriceps tendon.
“I can’t wait, man, I can’t wait to have him back,” point guard Eric Bledsoe said. “At the same, I think we did a great job of playing together since him and (Matthew Dellavedova) went down. Those are key pieces of our backcourt, him and Delly. Glad to have Malcolm back.”
Brogdon expects to get enough work in these final two games for him to be ready for the postseason.
“Absolutely,” Brogdon said. “I’ll definitely be able to get back into a rhythm, but it’s mandatory that I play at least a game or two before I get back to the playoffs.”
The Magic is not heading to the postseason and comes to Milwaukee having dropped two in a row — including a 112-101 decision at Toronto Sunday — and eight of its last 11 since posting a 126-117 victory over the Bucks March 14 in Orlando.
While the Bucks sort out their postseason plans, Magic head coach Frank Vogel could be running out the string on his time with the franchise.
He’s 53-109 since taking over ahead of the 2016-17 season but when Jeff Weltman took over as general manager and brought in John Hammond as his assistant — a reversal of the roles they held with the Bucks — both made it clear that they would evaluate the Magic’s coaching situation at the end of the season.
His roster was devastated by injuries this season and Orlando will have the fifth-worst record in the league at gametime Monday.
Still, his players appreciate Vogel’s leadership.
“Coach Vogel, he wants to see everybody on this team do good, especially the young guys,” forward Wes Iwundu said. “In games like this, it starts by building good habits. He don’t want to see no bad habits out there on the court.”
Along with the playoff implications, Monday’s game also marks the end of an era for the Bucks. It will be the final regular-season contest played at the Bradley Center, the Bucks’ home since 1988.
Milwaukee will move to a new, $500 million facility under construction just to the north of its current home next season.