Tonight’s game underscores the importance of Houston’s win over Dallas. Whereas the Mavericks play the Phoenix Suns tonight in a game Dallas will surely win, the Rockets are playing the overwhelming Eastern Conference favorite and one of the three teams almost guaranteed to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy when the playoffs conclude. Had Houston not pulled out the overtime win against their Interstate-45 rivals, tonight’s game would have had the potential to drop the Rockets to the seventh spot in the West with a more realistic chance of getting the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
As of this writing (Saturday afternoon), the Milwaukee Bucks have not clinched the Eastern Conference’s top seed, but with the second seed Toronto Raptors playing the Los Angeles Lakers tonight, a Raptors loss would officially give Milwaukee the top spot in the East for the second straight season.
So for the Bucks, these seeding games are more about playing back into shape and getting sharper on both ends of the court. Houston, meanwhile, is preoccupied with achieving the most favorable playoff matchup in the first round and beyond.
James Harden has been sharp throughout the bubbles games and Friday night was no exception. The Beard had the highest-scoring game of the bubble so far, and he’s likely to finish with that distinction as well (or T.J. Warren takes the crown one day later).
Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to win his second consecutive MVP running away. Milwaukee reminds me a bit of the 2017-2018 Rockets in that everyone is contributing and playing really well. And Milwaukee isn’t going to see the juggernaut Golden State Warriors on their way to a title. The league wants a Los Angeles-Los Angeles matchup in the Western Conference Finals, but they would also like a Lakers-Bucks Finals to either give LeBron another moment or to commemorate the passing of the torch from LeBron to Giannis.
I expect tonight’s game to be a Bucks lovefest on ABC, but luckily the game is available locally as well.
Tip-off is at 7:30pm CT on ABC and AT&T Sportsnet Southwest