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The Milwaukee Bucks held a lot of the playing cards going into the final day of the common season.
They have been within the East’s No. 2 slot, one recreation forward of the Boston Celtics, however knew Boston held the tiebreaker. The Bucks noticed the Brooklyn Nets lurking as a probably harmful No. 7 seed.
The Bucks successfully conceded their ultimate recreation in opposition to the Cleveland Cavaliers, sitting all their key regulars save for Jrue Vacation — who performed eight seconds earlier than committing an intentional foul so he might log his 67th recreation, and set off a $306,000 bonus. By doing so, Milwaukee foisted an disagreeable alternative onto the Celtics: If Boston beat Memphis in its finale, it might leapfrog Milwaukee into the No. 2 spot — risking that matchup in opposition to Brooklyn. Lose to the Grizzlies (who had nothing to play for, and rested all 5 starters), and the Celtics — assuming a Philadelphia 76ers win over the Detroit Pistons — would fall to No. 4. That meant a collection in opposition to the Toronto Raptors, amid rumblings no less than one key Boston participant was not absolutely vaccinated — and thus ineligible to play in Toronto.
Boston received, and obtained that No. 2 seed — and a date with the Nets. The Bucks prevented Brooklyn, however their gambit value them home-court benefit on this mega-series. For the second consecutive postseason, it is potential Milwaukee is taking part in the “actual” NBA Finals within the second spherical — solely this time with out Khris Middleton for no less than the primary a part of the collection as he recovers from a leg damage. (I am much less satisfied of the “actual NBA Finals” framing this time round, given how nice the Phoenix Suns have been when wholesome and the Golden State Warriors now rampaging at full throttle.)
Boston has been by far the league’s finest crew since Jan. 1. It’s 38-12 in that span, and has outscored opponents by about 12.5 factors per 100 possessions. Something over double digits suggests historic dominance. The No. 2 crew in that stretch — Phoenix — was plus-8 per 100 possessions. For the season, the Bucks are plus-3.2.
Jayson Tatum was the most effective participant (by quite a bit) in a collection that includes Kevin Durant. If he is the most effective participant on this collection, Milwaukee is in hassle. With Middleton out, the Bucks want Giannis Antetokounmpo at his peak to beat Boston 4 occasions in seven tries — with a possible Sport 7 on the highway. They want him to be the most effective participant by a cushty margin. Antetokounmpo is clearly succesful, even in opposition to a Boston crew that has extra choices defending him than every other opponent. He’s the league’s most damaging two-way participant — a two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP who seems to have overcome his free throw points and might toggle between all three front-court positions.
If there’s a participant who can resolve Boston’s impenetrable, ultra-switchy protection, it’s Antetokounmpo.
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