The rebuilding plan is way ahead of schedule for the Milwaukee Bucks.
A year after a franchise-worst 67-loss season, the Bucks are headed to the playoffs.
Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points and Coach Jason Kidd's team relied on defense in a 96-73 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday that wrapped up the playoff spot and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"To be honest, I always believed we could do better. But I didn't know if we could go from 15 wins to get 40," said Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 13 points.
The athletic 20-year-old forward is one of the big reasons why the Bucks are the first team since the 2008-09 Miami Heat to make the playoffs a year after having the NBA's worst record.
"Our goal was to go to the playoffs, from Day 1. Everybody believed in it. I started believing in it and we made it," the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo said.
O.J. Mayo added 17 points for the Bucks, who held Brooklyn to 32% shooting. It was a season low for points for a Bucks opponent.
Brook Lopez had his 17th double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets. They are tied for eighth with Indiana in the East, a game behind Boston. The Nets have the tiebreaker over the Pacers.
at Indiana 116, Oklahoma City 104: Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 54 points, but the Pacers fended off his late charge for a critical victory over the Thunder. C.J. Miles matched his season high with 30 points to lead Indiana to its fifth straight win and into a tie with Brooklyn for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
at San Antonio 107, Phoenix 91: Tim Duncan had 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Spurs to their 11th straight victory. San Antonio moved into second place in the Western Conference and took a half-game lead over idle Memphis in the Southwest Division. The defending champion Spurs have won 21 of 24.
at Boston 117, Cleveland 78: Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points and the Celtics moved closer to a playoff berth with a rout of the Cavaliers without LeBron James and three other starters. Boston would have clinched a playoff spot if Indiana had lost to Oklahoma City. But the Pacers (37-43) won.
at Washington 108, Atlanta 99: John Wall had no trouble finding his rhythm after resting for two games, producing 24 points and nine assists to lead the Wizards to their highest win total in more than 30 years by beating a second-string group of Hawks. Washington improved to 46-34, its first time topping 45 victories since 1978-79.
at Houston 121, New Orleans 114: James Harden scored 30 points and the Rockets used a big run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to take the lead and held on for a victory over the Pelicans. The Rockets ended a two-game skid behind the NBA-leading 35th 30-point game for Harden, who leads the league in scoring.
at Detroit 116, Charlotte 77: Andre Drummond had 15 points and 19 rebounds, and the Pistons turned their home finale into a rout. Greg Monroe scored 17 points in what might have been his final home game at the Palace. Monroe is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
at Denver 122, Sacramento 111: Kenneth Faried scored a season-high 30 points and the Nuggets spoiled George Karl's return to Denver, beating the Kings. Wilson Chandler had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Nuggets in their home finale. At 19-22, Denver had a losing record at Pepsi Center for the first time since 2002-03.