Kukoc powers Bucks into playoffs with 25 points

TORONTO (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoffs, but not
because of an impressive performance.

Toni Kukoc scored 25 points, and the Bucks clinched a playoff
spot with a 105-103 victory Friday night over the Toronto Raptors, who
dressed only eight players and were missing their two best.

''I really don't understand how we did it,'' Milwaukee coach
George Karl said. ''I really think Toronto probably played the
better basketball game tonight.''

Toronto's Alvin Williams missed two chances to send the game
into overtime in the final 10 seconds. On the first, he was fouled
by Gary Payton on a drive to the basket with 6.3 seconds left in
the game, but he made only one of two free throws to cut
Milwaukee's lead to 104-103.

Williams had one final opportunity, after Tim Thomas missed one
of his free throws with 5.6 seconds left, but Williams missed a layup.
Jerome Williams grabbed the rebound and powered down a dunk that would have tied the game, but it came after the buzzer. The
officials used video replay and the call stood.

''I blew it,'' Alvin Williams said. ''We had an opportunity to
win and I blew it. When you're undermanned, you almost need to play
a perfect game.''

Payton scored 24 points while Sam Cassell added 15 points and
eight assists for Milwaukee, which has beaten the Raptors five
consecutive times in Toronto.

Rafer Alston scored 20 points for the Raptors, who lost their
fifth consecutive game, while Jerome Williams scored 20 points and had
13 rebounds. Toronto played without Vince Carter (left ankle) and
Antonio Davis (strained groin), who are both out for the season.

The Bucks, who were down by 10 points early in the game, broke a
100-100 tie with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter when Payton
blocked a shot by Alvin Williams, and then fed Cassell in for
a layup. Kukoc then made it a four-point lead on a layup.

But Morris Peterson cut the lead to 104-102, and Toronto had a
chance to tie when Cassell missed a jumper with 10.6 seconds left.

''This is the first year I've ever seen a team that's not making
the playoffs still play as hard as they are playing,'' Payton said.
''I think every one of (the Raptors) is trying to make a statement
for next year.''

Game notes
The Raptors set an NBA record in their last game, on
Wednesday against Orlando, with their 484th man-game lost to
injury. ... Milwaukee forwards Anthony
Mason (left thigh) and Jason Caffey (back) did not dress for the
sixth consecutive game.


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