About Last Night: Bucks on the cusp

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Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks will secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with either one win or one Raptors loss.

Somewhat remarkably, not a single team changed position among the 10 Eastern Conference teams that have either clinched playoff spots already or were battling to do so entering Monday’s slate. 

No. 6 Detroit, No. 7 Brooklyn, No. 8 Miami, No. 9 Orlando and No. 10 Charlotte all lost, squandering opportunities to gain ground among a group separated by less than four games at the bottom of the postseason field. 

No. 4 Boston and No. 5 Indiana both won to push their records to an identical 46-32 as they approach a Friday matchup in Indianapolis that will likely dictate who earns home-court advantage in the first round. 

Philadelphia, locked into the third spot barring a massive collapse, had little to play for and performed like it in a listless loss to Dallas as Joel Embiid (rest) and Jimmy Butler (back) both sat. 

No. 2 Toronto dominated Orlando to clinch the Atlantic Division and, as a result, will finish no worse than second. 

And while the Raptors still have a mathematical chance to take first, Milwaukee’s victory over the Nets put it in pole position.

With four games remaining for each team, one Bucks win or one Raptors loss will give the former not only the best record in the East but the entire NBA. With that finish will come home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, a formidable edge for a team that has won 32 of 38 outings in Milwaukee this season. 

With respect to their great 1980s teams led by Sidney Moncrief, it’s territory the Bucks haven’t seen since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was patrolling the paint almost 50 years ago, and roughly two decades before their current superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was born in 1994.

Per usual, Antetokounmpo was the difference against the feisty Nets, pouring in 14 of his 28 points over the final 12 minutes as the Bucks staved off multiple runs in a battle featuring 18 lead changes and six ties. 

But beyond serving as yet another showcase of Antetokounmpo’s greatness, the game was also a testament to the Bucks’ depth as they overcame the absence of seven players, including All-Star guard Khris Middleton (groin). All five starters scored in double-figures, led by Eric Bledsoe’s 29, and veteran reserve George Hill added 22 off the bench. 

Even without five of their top 10 scorers, the Bucks still put up 131 to offset a rare off night from their league-leading defense.

In short, they did whatever it took to earn the victory, something they’ve excelled at during a charmed season in which they’ve managed to surprise even themselves. 

“I thought we were going to be a really good team,” Antetokounmpo said, “but to be honest, I didn’t think we’d have the best record in the NBA. It feels amazing. It’s been fun so far. Everyone is happy, they have a smile on their face. So we’re just going to keep rolling.”

Parquet for D-Wade

The latest stop in Dwyane Wade’s retirement tour might have been the coolest, with Celtics general manager Danny Ainge presenting the Heat legend with a piece of the hallowed parquet floor from their 2007-08 championship season.

“I appreciate the respect they showed me as a player to present me with a piece of the history of the Celtics,” Wade said. “That was so cool. I definitely didn’t expect it at all. I just want to thank them for that gesture.”  

Luck of the Irish

This wasn’t exactly how you’d draw it up, but the Celtics finished one of the better sequences of the night in style: 

RIP Nip

The tributes for slain rapper Nipsey Hussle continued, with Kawhi Leonard contributing a hand-made take on his signature New Balances. 

Up and under

We’re not sure which was more impressive, Thon Maker jumping completely over a fellow member of the Exceptionally Large Human Club, or Bojan Bogdanovic keeping his composure upon being cleared to make the layup: 

Obscure achievement

Portland’s Evan Turner earned one of the most esoteric records you’ll ever see with his triple-double against the Timberwolves:

Obscure achievement II

Knicks rookie Mitchell Robinson’s shot-blocking exploits are something we haven’t seen in the NBA from a first-year player since another Robinson tore it up back in the day. 

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