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Rockets-Bucks game preview: only the postseason matters

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

These teams met last Thursday, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving after one minute with an ankle sprain and Kevin Porter Jr. dropping 50 points after getting fined $50,000 for violating the league’s health and safety protocols.

Tonight figures to be a much different affair. The Bucks are 4-0 since that loss, and after back-to-back wins against the James Harden-less Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee is poised to climb to second place in the Eastern Conference with a win.

Meanwhile, Houston’s magic number for a top 3 lottery seed is 2. Houston can (but won’t) go 4-2 down the stretch and still end up with enough lottery balls to give themselves a 52% chance at a top 4 pick, which is the sweet spot this year. The gap between the fourth and fifth pick seems to be large this year, with Jonathan Kuminga being a raw prospect.

This game is the start of a 4-game road trip for Houston. After tonight, they will head to Utah for their second game of their final back-to-back of the season. Then it’s off to Portland and then LA for the Lakers. As you may have noticed, each of these four teams need these wins to maintain or improve their current playoff standings. With the regular season winding down, it’s unlikely that a team will take the Rockets lightly. There are no trap game in the finals weeks of the season. The Rockets just want the season to be over, and these teams know that if they apply a little bit of pressure early, they can blow out Houston and rest their starters.

An interesting subplot is that Houston is decimated by injuries once again. The game could be postponed, though the league almost certainly does not want that at this point.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest Alternate