|San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili slips past Minnesota’s Al Jefferson for a basket. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)|
If this was a preview of Atlanta’s first-round playoff series, Joe Johnson gave the Milwaukee Bucks plenty to worry about.
And he’s certainly not the only concern for the Bucks, who have lost two straight games to potential first-round opponents and might finally be starting to feel the loss of injured center Andrew Bogut.
Johnson scored 31 points and the Hawks beat Milwaukee, 104-96, last night in Milwaukee, solidifying their spot as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta is 52-29 with one game left and holds a 1 1/2-game lead over the Celtics, who are 50-30 and have two games remaining.
“I think the focus tonight was a little different considering this is a potential matchup in the playoffs,’’ Johnson said. “Knowing we had this game and one more left for the regular season, we want to go out with a bang and go into the postseason with some momentum.’’
He definitely did his part, shooting 12 for 19 from the floor and 4 for 6 from 3-point range.
Bucks veteran Jerry Stackhouse said Johnson is bound to get his points, and Milwaukee needs to shut down the rest of the Hawks’ lineup. That didn’t happen last night, as Marvin Williams had 18 points and the Hawks put six scorers in double figures.
John Salmons scored 28 points and Brandon Jennings added 21 in the regular-season home finale for the Bucks.
It was the second straight matchup with a potential first-round opponent for the Bucks, who lost to Boston Saturday.
“It’s either Atlanta or Boston,’’ Jennings said. “I think they are both beatable for us. We’ve been hanging with them the whole year. But, like they say, the playoffs are going to be a different level, so we’ll see.’’
Milwaukee dropped into sixth place in the East, a game behind fifth-place Miami, which beat Philadelphia, 107-105.
The Bucks and Heat each have one game remaining, and Milwaukee holds the tiebreaker.
Raptors 111, Pistons 97 — Andrea Bargnani had 33 points, Amir Johnson scored 26, and visiting Toronto improved its playoff prospects by snapping a five-game losing streak. Toronto moved within a half-game of the Bulls for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors, who close the season tomorrow at home against New York, will earn a playoff berth if they end the season tied with Chicago, which finishes against Boston and at Charlotte.
Heat 107, 76ers 105 — Dwyane Wade scored 30 points and made the big assist to Udonis Haslem for the go-ahead basket with 1.3 seconds left to lift visiting Miami.
Mavericks 117, Clippers 94 — Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points in 22 minutes, Shawn Marion added 21 points in his return from an injury, and visiting Dallas kept a firm grip on the No. 2 seed in the West.
Trail Blazers 103, Thunder 95 — Marcus Camby scored a season-high 30 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead host Portland. The loss locked Oklahoma City into the eighth spot in the West and a first-round matchup against the defending champion Lakers.
Nuggets 123, Grizzlies 101 — J.R. Smith scored 26 points and host Denver broke out of its offensive funk. Now, the Nuggets are off to Phoenix for a crucial game in their season finale tonight. A win by the Nuggets would secure their second straight Northwest title, at least the No. 3 seed in the West, and home-court advantage in the first round.
Spurs 133, Timberwolves 111 — Keith Bogans scored 17 points and host San Antonio kept control over its playoff future by crushing Minnesota. The Spurs are the seventh seed, but could go higher with a win in their regular-season finale tomorrow against Dallas.
Rockets 117, Kings 107 — Kevin Martin scored 39 points in a triumphant return to Sacramento as Houston rolled to victory. Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans scored 24 points, assuring himself of joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists a game.
Magic 118, Pacers 98 — Vince Carter scored 21 points to help visiting Orlando, which has clinched the No. 2 spot in the East, to its fifth straight win.
Bobcats 105, Nets 95 — Stephen Jackson had 17 points and nine rebounds as Charlotte beat New Jersey in the Nets’ final game at the Izod Center. With Miami’s win over Philadelphia earlier last night, the Bobcats clinched the No. 7 spot in the East and will meet the Magic in the first round.
Knicks 114, Wizards 103 — Danilo Gallinari scored all 24 of his points in the second half, David Lee had 26, and New York rallied to victory in its final home game of the season.