So close. So very close. With a mere three games remaining between the hyperspeed slog that is this year’s NBA regular season and the playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks will play out their remaining schedule, starting tonight with a visit to the Indiana Pacers.
Where We’re At
All along, ever since the Bucks fell to the Miami Heat in the bubble, the refrain from Bucks fans has been “the regular season doesn’t matter, it’s all about the playoffs.” If you’ve been watching the Bucks for the past month, that much has become evident as Milwaukee has performed like a team with their sights set on something further down the road, rather than what’s right in front of them. But when we look at the results, some of the concern starts to seem unnecessary as the Bucks can boast a 9-3 record over their last 12 games, including back-to-back victories over both the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, earning the regular season tiebreaker against each Eastern Conference foe. It’s not likely that the Bucks climb any higher than the 3-seed; Milwaukee’s path to the top spot would require going 3-0 in this final stanza while Philadelphia goes 0-3 and Brooklyn goes 0-2. No, the Bucks will likely stay put, and the 0.5 games that separates the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and New York Knicks means predicting who our first round opponent will be is a virtual crapshoot. Just three more games to get through before the games start to actually matter.
Speaking of not mattering, the Indiana Pacers! They clinched a spot in the Play-In Tournament after taking down the Sixers, and are jockeying for position with the Wizards, Hornets, and Celtics. They have been the definition of an up-and-down team lately, going 5-5 in their last 10, bookending two double-digit drubbings on either side of a 57-point(!) win over Oklahoma City a few weeks ago. Seats are warming up in Indiana, and this evening’s matchup doesn’t bode well for solidifying the Pacers’ play-in positioning, as Indiana will be without all of (deep breath) T.J. Warren, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and Aaron Holiday.
Player To Watch
Giannis Antetokounmpo is always one to watch out for, both on the court and in the check-out line at Carter’s because he and Mariah are reportedly expecting their second child! Mazel tov!
Oh, for tonight’s game? Yeesh, I don’t know, let’s say Donte DiVincenzo. The Big Ragu has generally elevated his play this season, taking on far more responsibilities on offense than fans would have predicted last year. He still struggles with knocking down open shots (but he hits contested ones!) and his finishing at the rim is, in a word, abysmal, but DiVincenzo has a reputation of a player who shows up on the big stage and establishing some momentum heading into the postseason would be huge for the Bucks’ hopes as they stare down the playoff path that likely requires going through both the 76ers and Nets, after triumphing over whichever tough first round opponent they draw. There’s tons of pressure, and role players like Donte stepping up would be massive for the Bucks’ to swing things in their favor.
Game 70: Against Indiana, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)