Consider Monday night's tilt in Toronto a good test case for how important incentives are for NBA teams. The third seeded Raptors enter the day even with the fourth seeded Bulls record-wise, but currently sit ahead of them in the East seedings thanks to owning the teams' head-to-head tiebreaker.
As if that weren't enough, Toronto also has a chance to set a new franchise record for wins in a season, and they've already beaten the Bucks three times this season, including last Saturday while everyone was understandably preoccupied with Wisconsin's who Final Four thing. In short: I think we know who is favored tonight.
Meanwhile, the Bucks...well, you know that story. Milwaukee will clinch the top seed in the May 20 draft lottery with one more loss or Sixer win, so at least that silver lining would be realized with yet another loss.
Health care. The Raps took care of the Bucks in Milwaukee a week ago without the services of starters Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson, which is saying something given both have been a huge part of the Raps' ascendancy this year. They also expect to be in the starting five on Monday night, so that's not particularly helpful from a "Bucks trying to win" perspective.
As for the Bucks, they'll be hoping Brandon Knight can play after sitting out Saturday night's loss in Washington with a sore hip. I suppose there's no reason to risk Knight in a game that doesn't really matter, but there's also seemingly no way for the Bucks to win without their leading scorer--and you can bet Larry Drew and company would love to scrape another win or two together before the season is mercifully over. If they can't, they'll be just the third team in NBA history to go an entire season without winning back-to-back games.
If Knight doesn't play, the Bucks will once again have little choice but to play Ramon Session (aka their only remaining point guard) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka the only other guy who can bring the ball up the court) big minutes.
Benchmarking bad. The Bucks are already guaranteed to set new franchise lows for wins (previously 20-62 in 93/94), but where does that put them in the grand scheme of NBA history? Should they fail to win their final two games, they'll tie 12 other teams for the 10th most losses in league history and rank 16th in terms of lowest winning percentages.
And to be clear: I get that guys want to rep their country, but as a Bucks fan I'd rather see Giannis working with NBA coaches and training staff in May, June and July versus running himself into the ground playing every day for two weeks in a junior tournament. An invite to train with the senior team is a bit different, and would be a big honor given a) his age and b) that he wasn't even able to represent Greece at any level before he received his passport a year ago. I won't begrudge him the chance to make the senior team, but two major international tournaments in one summer seems a bit much.
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