The calendar puts the Milwaukee Bucks in Oklahoma for the regular-season finale Wednesday night.

But it's clear the Bucks' focus is already shifting toward their first-round playoff matchup against the defending league champion Miami Heat.

The struggling Bucks are seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference and given little chance to challenge the top-seeded Heat when the playoffs open this weekend.

And they could be without shot-blocking center Larry Sanders unless his sore lower back heals sufficiently to let him return to the court. Sanders saw a doctor in Chicago on Tuesday for a second opinion on his back injury, suffered in a hard fall to the floor in Orlando last week.

The Bucks did get some good news with the return of point guard Brandon Jennings on Monday in the team's 112-111 loss to Denver. Jennings hit just 1 of 11 shots but played 29 minutes after missing two games due to a sore left Achilles.

"I'd rather it be now than in the playoffs," Jennings said of his injury. "That's why I came back for the last two games, just to get used to playing and get back in the flow of things.

"We're on the biggest stage in the world (against the Heat). If you can't get up for that and you're not motivated for that, I don't know what else to tell you. I don't know what other type of stage you want to be on."

Bucks coach Jim Boylan is trying to prepare his team for its rugged playoff test and dealing with a fragile collective psyche following five consecutive losses.

"You have to address it as a team," Boylan said. "This is our job, this is what we do. If I was working some other job and I got off at 5 o'clock and I quit at 3:30, I probably wouldn't have that job very long.

"We have to play this thing all the way to the end. No matter what happens, no matter how things go, we have to stick together.

"We can't splinter. We can't point fingers. We can't play the blame game. We just have to do what we're paid to do - compete, perform, prepare. I think the guys in that locker room understand that."

It will be vital for the Bucks to have Sanders, a candidate for the league's most improved player and defensive player of the year, back in the lineup.

"It's important for us because he's our starting center," Boylan said. "If you look at Miami one area you can get some work done against them is on the offensive glass.

"If Larry is active around the glass he's going to get some second-chance opportunities, tip-ins and things like that. When you're playing a team of that caliber, getting those opportunities is really big. He could have a big effect on the games."