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Uncertain offseason for Bucks after sweep

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MILWAUKEE (AP) - Brandon Jennings didn't play in the fourth quarter, and there's no telling if he'll ever play for the Milwaukee Bucks again.

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Jennings and the rest of the Bucks headed into an offseason of uncertainty Sunday night after being swept out of the playoffs by the Miami Heat. The 88-77 loss was the fourth straight by double digits for Milwaukee, and the Bucks couldn't even beat the Heat with Dwyane Wade on the bench, an ice bag on his aching right knee.

``This has been a crazy year. It's been one of the craziest years of my life, actually,'' said Jennings, a restricted free agent. ``With the coaching changes and everything, it's just a total rollercoaster.''

It isn't likely to stop for the next several months, either.

Jennings is expected to test free agency, though the Bucks can match any offer for him. Monta Ellis, who led Milwaukee with 21 points on Sunday, has an $11 million player option.

Oh, the Bucks need to make a decision on Jim Boylan, too. He's been Milwaukee's coach since the team parted ways with Scott Skiles in January.

``We have a lot of decisions to make,'' Boylan said. ``But we just finished playing our last game of the season. To make those kind of statements is a little bit too quick.''

Though the Bucks drew the defending NBA champions for their first playoff appearance in three years, they began the series brimming with confidence. Jennings even predicted that Milwaukee would win the series in six games.

Instead, the Bucks quickly saw how big the gap remains between them and the Heat.

``We've been playing close, playing hard,'' Ellis said. ``They're just a better team.''

Trailing by just three going into the fourth quarter of Game 3, they watched Miami pull away with a 12-0 run. They led by 10 after the first quarter in Game 3, only to have Miami take control of the game in the third quarter.

On Sunday, the Bucks got down by 11 early. But they steadily chipped away at the lead. When Mike Dunleavy drained a 3 and Ellis scored on a floater, it cut Miami's lead to 69-67 with 9:34 to play.

``We knew they were going to come out and play as hard as they could and with as much desperation as they could to try and continue series,'' LeBron James said.

Ellis was fouled by Ray Allen on the play, but he missed the free throw and James grabbed the rebound. He fed Allen, who knocked down - what else? a 3 to . J.J. Redick missed a long 3 and James found an open Mario Chalmers for another 3 that gave the Heat a 75-67 lead with 8:27 left.

The 3 was Chalmers' 80th in the postseason, tying Tim Hardaway's franchise record.

After Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made the second of two free throws, James scored on a layup. Redick made a jumper, but Shane Battier and Allen closed out the Bucks with a pair of 3s.

James then converted a three-point play and added a layup to complete the 19-5 run - a spurt in which he had a hand in every single Miami score.

``At some point during that stretch right there, he decided he was going to put his imprint on the game and he did. In a big way,'' Boylan said. ``When you're a superstar player like he is, that's what superstar players do.''

James finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Allen finished with 16, going 4 of 7 from 3-point range.

Dunleavy had 17 points and Redick 10. But the Bucks got almost nothing again from Jennings, who didn't even play in the fourth quarter. He finished with three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

After scoring 26 points in Game 1, Jennings had 27 total in the final three.

``Frustrated, a little down because I came into this season with so much confidence,'' Jennings said. ``I thought we had a chance to steal a game in Game 1, Game 2. We let that slip away from us. Game 3, we came back home. Had a 10-point lead, lost that. I mean it's frustration all around.''

And now, uncertainty.

``I feel like Milwaukee is doing something now, trying to make a tradition of being a playoff team,'' Sanders said. ``This is our first step.''

NOTES: The Heat have won eight straight postseason games dating back to last season. That matches the franchise record. ... NBA Commissioner David Stern was in attendance. ... James scored 30 or more for the 54th time in the postseason, second only to Kobe Bryant among active players. ... Milwaukee had seven of its 16 turnovers in the first quarter. ... The Bucks are now 20-26 in elimination games. ... Packers LB Clay Matthews was at the game.

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The Associated Press
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