The Milwaukee Bucks have done all they can do, and now it's about getting to full health for the start of the NBA playoffs. That's one of the reasons MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Saturday as the Bucks dropped a 133-128 game to the playoff-hungry Brooklyn Nets.
The Bucks clinched the best regular-season record in the league with their Thursday night victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, and they will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. As a result, their superstar rested with a left calf injury.
While the game did not mean much for the Bucks, it was quite significant for the Nets. Brooklyn is fighting for its playoff lives in the Eastern Conference standings, and the victory allowed the Nets to even their record at 40-40. Brooklyn has the same record as the Orlando Magic, but the Nets have the tiebreaker edge and have the higher seed.
Brooklyn center Jared Dudley had 16 points, which tied his season high. "It was tough, even without Giannis," Dudley said, per the Associated Press (h/t NBA.com). "I know that helped us. We just got key stops at the very end."
Brooklyn and Orlando are fighting with the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets for the last three playoff spots in the Eastern conference.
The Pistons (39-40) are also in the playoff structure in eighth place, with the Heat (38-42) 1.5 games behind. The Hornets are another half-game back at 37-42, and while their playoff chances are not good, they did win back-to-back games last week against the New Orleans Pelicans and Toronto Raptors and still have a chance.
The Raptors are locked into second place in the Eastern Conference, and the Sixers are in a strong position to hold on to third place even though they have not clinched that position yet.
The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are almost certain to meet in the first round, and the Celtics went a long way toward gaining home court in that series with a 117-97 road victory over the Pacers Friday night.
NBA Standings as of April 7
Eastern Conference Standings, with current playoff opponent
1. z-Milwaukee Bucks (59-21), vs. Detroit
2. y-Toronto Raptors (57-24), vs. Orlando
3. x-Philadelphia 76ers (50-30), vs. Brooklyn
4. x-Boston Celtics (48-32), vs. Indiana
5. x-Indiana Pacers (47-33), vs. Boston
6. Brooklyn Nets (40-40), vs. Philadelphia
7. Orlando Magic (40-40), vs. Toronto
8. Detroit Pistons (39-40), vs. Milwaukee
9. Miami Heat (38-42)
10. Charlotte Hornets (37-42)
Western Conference Standings, with current playoff opponent
1. y-Golden State Warriors (55-24), vs. San Antonio
2. y-Denver Nuggets (53-26), vs. Oklahoma City
3. y-Houston Rockets (52-28), vs. Clippers
4. x-Portland Trail Blazers (50-29), vs. Utah
5. x-Utah Jazz (49-30), vs. Portland
6. x-Los Angeles Clippers (47-33), vs. Houston
7. x-Oklahoma City Thunder (46-33), vs. Denver
8. x-San Antonio Spurs (47-34), vs. Golden State
X = clinched a playoff spot, y = clinched division, z = clinched conference title.
Current first-round opponents listed after commas and based on April 7 standings.
The eight teams that will compete in the Western Conference playoffs have been determined, but seeds for all positions have not been decided.
The Golden State Warriors (55-24) have a two-game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the top spot, and the two-time defending NBA champions have an excellent chance at clinching that top spot.
The Nuggets are in danger of being overtaken by the Houston Rockets, however, since Denver (53-26) has just a half-game lead over Houston (52-28)
The Portland Trail Blazers (50-29) and Utah Jazz (49-30) have an excellent chance of meeting in the first round, as the Blazers are currently in the No. 4 position, while the Jazz are seeded fifth. However, there's just a one-game difference with three games to go, and that's a difference that can be overcome.
The Los Angeles Clippers (47-33), Oklahoma City Thunder (46-33) and San Antonio Spurs (47-34) are in a battle to determine the order of the final three seeds.
Predicted Bracket Matchups
Milwaukee (1) vs. Detroit (8): Pistons hold on to eighth place by going 2-1 in final three games.
Toronto (2) vs. Orlando (7): Magic won't beat Celtics on the road but will find a win at Charlotte.
Philadelphia (3) vs. Brooklyn (6): Nets likely to lose on road versus Pacers but win home finale versus Heat.
Boston (4) vs. Indiana (5): Celtics picked up big win versus Pacers and should win last two against Magic and Washington Wizards.
Golden State (1) vs. Oklahoma City (8): Thunder will drop last two versus Rockets, Bucks.
Denver (2) vs. San Antonio (7): Nuggets barely hold off Rockets for second place and get Spurs.
Houston (3) vs. L.A. Clippers (6): Clips hold on to sixth by beating Jazz in season finale.
Portland (4) vs. Utah (5): Blazers hold on to home court in first-round series.