The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to punch their ticket to the conference finals Wednesday night. By the time Thursday's NBA playoff action concludes, two more teams could join them.
The Toronto Raptors are up 3-2 on the Philadelphia 76ers following a commanding 125-89 win in Game 5. The Sixers host Toronto with their season on the line.
Likewise, the Portland Trail Blazers will hope home-court advantage can help them stay alive against the Denver Nuggets, who hold a 3-2 series lead.
Toronto (-2) at Philadelphia; 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Denver at Portland (-4); 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Odds are courtesy of Vegas Insider
The health of Joel Embiid has been a dominant theme throughout the Sixers' matchup with the Raptors. First, the two-time All-Star was battling left knee tendinitis. Then he was suffering from a virus during Philadelphia's Game 5 loss.
For the series, Embiid is averaging 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. His scoring and rebounding, in particular, are down from their regular-season equivalents. Embiid averaged 27.5 points and 13.6 boards, both of which were career highs, heading into the playoffs.
The supporting cast isn't necessarily stepping up to support Embiid, but there's ultimately only so much a team can do in the postseason when its best player is clearly playing below his best.
To a lesser extent, that's true of the Trail Blazers as well.
Damian Lillard sent the Oklahoma City Thunder packing with his Game 5 buzzer-beater. He averaged 33.0 points and shot 46.9 percent on three-pointers during that series. Against the Nuggets, Lillard is only shooting 24.1 percent from the perimeter while averaging 26.2 points.
This isn't to say Lillard should shoulder the blame for Portland being down 3-2. But the team was already flawed before losing Jusuf Nurkic for the season. Nurkic's injury meant Lillard had to be superhuman in the postseason in order for the Blazers to make a deep run.
The four-time All-Star was exactly that in the first round and has fallen back to earth a bit, which has Portland on the brink of elimination.