There will be plenty of heel kicking for the Milwaukee Bucks this week while we watch the eight mopes in the Eastern and Western Conferences duke it out for the honor of pantings the Celtics and Grizzlies, respectively. Yet I’d be lying if I said the play-in tournament isn’t adding a little bit of actual drama in the build up to the actual 16 team playoffs.
Take the Minnesota Timberwolves, for example: A team that has struggled all year to shed there “the Rudy Gobert Trade is going to send the franchise to Seattle by 2030” shadow. They finally seemed to be turning a corner with D’Angelo Russell shipped out, Karl-Anthony Towns returned, and Mike Conley bringing a semblance of maturity to the whole operation. Then Gobert tried to punch teammate Kyle Anderson during a timeout (Gobert has since been suspended by the Twolves) and up-and-coming defensive stalwart Jaden McDaniels broke his hand punching a wall. Lol.
Now they’ve the good fortune to be facing the Los Angeles Lakers. Beneficiaries of a league-leading free throw attempt rate of .329 since the All-Star Game (probably deserved, but it’s also LeBron James and the Lakers, so...), the Lakers are probable favorites to advance to face an upstart Grizzlies team the league might be interested in humbling. OKC is a fun story coming up against the also-ran New Orleans Pelicans, as well.
In the East, the Chicago Bulls feature a truly incompetent offense with a surprisingly sound defense. DeMar DeRozan and Zach “Young Hollywood” LaVine are the kinds of bang or bust gunners who could overcome a listing Raptors team or crash out in hilarious fashion. The Heat have won 3 of 4 games against the Hawks, but all four results were within 10 points so who knows what may happen?
For Milwaukee’s purposes, the key will be who wins the second “play-in” on Friday. The winner of that game — featuring the loser of Heat v. Hawks and winner of Raps v. Bulls — will move on to face the Bucks starting on Sunday.
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