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Bucks Punch Ticket to Playoffs While Seeding Battle Intensifies

Aside from the Boston Celtics, the Eastern Conference is a muddled mess with nothing determined between second and 10th place. There are five days left and everyone has either two or three games remaining.

Many of the permutations in the next couple of days will impact NBA futures odds, specifically playoff, conference title, and NBA Finals odds. So read on for a look at the last dash in the East.

Bucks Punch Ticket to Playoffs While Seeding Battle Intensifies
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Boston Celtics (1st place)

They coasted through a loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday while giving both of their big men a night off. There could be another effort like this (or two) in the final three games, especially given the opponents.

As mentioned before, teams like this often present some solid props for your NBA bet slip, as a backup who is suddenly given big minutes can put up some numbers. It didn’t necessarily work out that way against the Bucks, but pay attention to injury reports for Boston’s next couple of games and see if there’s a bet online to be made.

There’s one interesting nugget in the Celtics’ current situation as it relates to home/road scenarios. They played three home games before the trip to Milwaukee and have their final three of the regular season at home. Then, of course, they’ll open with two against the No. 8 seed, but that won’t be until April 20, at the earliest. That puts Game 3 on the road on April 25, in all likelihood. Given that scenario, Boston would have played all of one road game in a span of 23 days, and it was a relatively meaningless loss (for the Celtics).

Doesn’t mean much other than the fact that they earned it. If you’re a glass-half-empty Celtics fan, though, perhaps you worry about the relative shock of a loud Game 3 road environment for a team that won’t have been in that kind of intensity for several weeks.

Remaining schedule: Host the Knicks on Wednesday, the Hornets on Friday, and the Wizards on Sunday.

Milwaukee Bucks (2nd place, 14 games out)

The only team other than the Celtics with a playoff spot locked up is the Bucks, but they’re only a game up on the Knicks. And, much more importantly, their superstar is hurt.

Giannis Antetokounmpo left the win over Boston in the third quarter. It was determined that his Achilles is okay, allowing Bucks fans to breathe a sigh of relief, but a calf strain on April 10 isn’t what you want if you’re eyeing a long playoff run.


Head coach Doc Rivers even labeled his level of concern as “high.”

Securing the No. 2 seed still means plenty for a team that has 12 more wins (30-18) at home than it does on the road.

Remaining schedule: Two of the final three games are against Orlando, which trails Milwaukee by two games. There could be some drama in Disney on the final day of the regular season. A visit to Oklahoma City in between those two Magic games won’t be easy.



New York Knicks (3rd, 15 games out)

The Knicks avenged a loss at Chicago on Friday with a win in the same arena on Tuesday, keeping pace with the Bucks. Milwaukee owns the tiebreaker between the two teams, so it’s really a two-game gap that New York needs to make up.

Still, you have to like where the Knicks stand if you’re a supporter. They’ve won 10 of the last 15 and have OG Anunoby back and playing well (24 points on Tuesday). As mentioned above, they lost a tiebreaker with Milwaukee, as well as Orlando.

Remaining schedule: After a visit to Boston on Wednesday for a game that doesn’t mean anything to the Celtics, New York finishes at home against Brooklyn and Chicago.

Orlando Magic (4th, 16 games out)

Losses at Charlotte late last week and at Houston on Tuesday have to sting. They’ve kept the Magic at arm’s length from second-place Milwaukee and now a game behind New York for that third spot.

The usual issue for the Magic reared its ugly head in the 1181-06 setback to the Rockets. Orlando hit just seven 3-pointers, compared to 15 for Houston. We just know there’s going to be a playoff game or two where they simply won’t be able to keep up in a shootout. Remember that when conducting some basketball betting online with a look at the NBA playoff odds.

Remaining schedule: As noted, there are games at Milwaukee and vs Milwaukee, both sandwiched around a visit to red-hot Philadelphia. That game with the Sixers could go a long way toward determining some positioning around that play-in/playoff line.

Cleveland Cavaliers (5th, 16 games out)

Just a few weeks ago we were looking at the flailing Bucks and wondering if Cleveland would be able to steal away the No. 2 seed. Now we’re wondering if the Cavaliers have enough to even stay out of the play-in picture.

It’s also notable that Cleveland will likely lose a tiebreaker to Orlando if the Magic hang on to win the Southeast Division, and the Cavaliers currently are losing the season series against Indiana. Cleveland does win the tiebreaker with Philly based on a significantly better division record.

Remaining schedule: They’ll try to avoid looking too far ahead when they host Memphis on Wednesday. The big one is two days later against the Pacers as both teams look to remain in the top six. Then comes a finale vs Charlotte that should help Cleveland’s cause.

Indiana Pacers (6th, 16½ games out)

This is quietly one of the hotter teams in the East, winners of three straight and eight of their last 11. They can claim the season series against Cleveland with a win in their matchup Friday night. More importantly, the Pacers win a tiebreaker with both Philadelphia and Miami – the two teams right behind them in the standings.

Indiana broke out its run-and-gun ways in a 140-123 win at Toronto on Tuesday. For the most part, it has been playing some better defense lately, which will be crucial once the games count a little more.

Remaining schedule: They get a two-day break before the visit to Cleveland and then host Atlanta in a finale that could have some significance for both teams.



Questions of the Day

Are there any big NBA games related to the East race on Wednesday?

Several we’ve already mentioned, notably the Magic at Bucks. We’re also eyeing the Mavericks at Miami, which may need to win out and get some help to avoid a play-in game.

Any other notable developments in the NBA’s East race?

It appears neither Chicago nor Atlanta wants to host the 9 vs 10 play-in game. The Bulls have dropped two straight while the Hawks are on a three-game losing streak. Chicago remains a game up with three to play and it owns the tiebreaker.

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