The Milwaukee Bucks held the most cards on the last day of the regular season.
They were second in the East, one game ahead of the Boston Celtics, but they knew Boston was the tiebreaker. The Bucks saw the lurking Brooklyn Nets as the number 7 potentially dangerous seed.
The Bucks effectively waived their last game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and all of their key players sat elsewhere. Jrue holiday – Who played eight seconds before making an intentional foul so he could score his 67th game and bring in a $306,000 bonus. In doing so, Milwaukee imposed an unpleasant choice on the Celtics: If Boston beat Memphis at their end, Milwaukee would jump to second – risking that showdown against Brooklyn. Losing to the Grizzlies (who had nothing to play for, and all five starters rested), the Celtics — assuming the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons — fell to No. 4. That meant a streak against the Toronto Raptors, amid grumbling, a key player was not vaccinated. At least one is in Boston – and therefore ineligible to play in Toronto.
Boston won, ranked second—and a date with the Nets. The Bucks avoided Brooklyn, but their maneuvers cost them the local stadium advantage in this massive series. For the second straight time after the season, Milwaukee will likely play ‘real’ NBA Finals in the second round — only this time without khris middleton In at least the first part of the series where he recovers from a leg injury. (I’m less convinced of the real “NBA Finals” framing this time around, given how awesome the Phoenix Suns were when they were healthy and the Golden State Warriors now raging at full speed.)
Boston has by far been the league’s best team since January 1, scoring 38-12 in that span, outselling the opponents by nearly 12.5 points per 100 possessions. Anything over two digits indicates historical dominance. The team was No. 2 in this stretch – Phoenix – plus 8 per 100 ownership. For the season, the bucks are plus 3.2.
Jason Tatum He was the best player (by a lot) in a Featured series Kevin Durant. If he’s the best player in the series, Milwaukee is in trouble. With Middleton out, the Bucks need Giannis Antikonmo At his peak to beat Boston four times in seven attempts – with a potential Game 7 on the way. They need him to be the best player by a comfortable margin. Antetokounmpo is clearly capable, even against a Boston team that has more options to defend than any other opponent. He’s the most devastating two-way player in the league – two-time MVP and Finals MVP and seems to have overcome free-throw issues and can switch between all three front-court positions.
If there is ever a player who can solve Boston’s impenetrable defense, it is Antetokounmpo.
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