The Bucks dispensed with the Orlando Magic 102-86 last night and the Heat fell to the Thunder in Miami, setting up the next stage in the Bucks playoff seed watch: the Celtics-Wizards game in Washington D.C. tonight.
Lose at home to the Kryie-less Celtics and the Wizards will be relegated to 8th and a first round playoff match-up against Toronto. The Bucks would then have the luxury of deciding whether to go all out against the Sixers on Wednesday in a bid for the 6th seed, or bow out in Philly and take the 7th seed and a Round 1 series against Boston.
The 6th seed opponent would almost surely be the Cavs, who close their season against the injury-depleted Knicks in Cleveland after beating the Knicks 123-109 in N.Y. Monday to stay a half game behind Philly. The Sixers have won 14 straight games, and will look to extend their streak to 15 tonight in Atlanta. A loss to the Hawks — or to the Bucks in the season finale — would flip the Cavs and Sixers in the final standings. (OK, anything is possible in the Knicks-Cavs game Wednesday, but really? Lebron and Kevin Love racked up 54 pts, 11 rebs and 12 asts against the Knicks Monday, and the Cavs are all but fully healthy and resting no one in this final week).
Luxuries are nice; the odds against beating Lebron and the Cavs in a first round playoff series are not so nice. All eyes in Bucks-land turn east to Washington, where the Celtics-Wizards are set to tip off at 7pm CST on TNT. A Wizards win means all remains in flux for the bottom three East seeds going in to Wednesday’s regular season-closing games.
The Wizards – have lost eight of their last 10 and four straight since John Wall came back March 31 from knee surgery. They’re murmuring about a sudden lack of chemistry in D.C., but had lost four of the six prior to Wall coming back and haven’t won since Boston announced that Kyrie Irving was done for the season. Truth is, the Wizards schedule was like a Rob Zombie Films gauntlet of terror — the Wiz didn’t catch a game against a lottery bound team for a month (Feb. 24 – March 24).
I’d say the Wizards are more burnt out than anything else, and occasionally suffering post traumatic stress from their schedule. Now that Wall’s back, nobody’s ailing except backup center Ian Mahinmi, who suffered a concussion in Cleveland and missed the Wizards’ loss to Atlanta Friday. They haven’t played a game since then, a well-timed and badly needed break before the battle against Boston.
The Celtics – Word out of the Celtics camp (and the Boston Globe) is that they’re not going to cooperate by resting Al Horford or anybody else not injured — and they don’t need the rest. Their young Jays, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier, Jabari Bird and Semi Ojeleye will sup on the playoff-like atmosphere of the game, though all the pressure’s on the Wizards. And Greg Monroe just likes getting the work with his new team. The C’s have been running plenty of sets for Monroe in recent games, and he’s averaged 17.7 pts, 7 rebs and 5.7 asts in 24.4 mins per game in his last three.
The Moose’s BIER rating was good in Phoenix (13.51) but in Boston it’s up to 15.06 — an all-star level per36 for a center. Of course Monroe has played just 19 mins per game since joining the Celtics in February, but that’s still a ton of production to throw at opponents off the bench (Aron Baynes starts at center for the Celtics while Al Horford’s has shifted to his natural role as stretch power forward).
Moose put up a triple double vs. Chicago last Friday, as he and Bird (of course the Celtics took the only guy named Bird in the draft last summer) dropped 34 pts on the Bulls off the bench in the Celtics win. “When he gets the minutes, he’s often going to get a double double (points and rebounds),” C’s coach Brad Stevens said of Monroe. “He’s an underrated passer.”
Yep. Bucks fans knew all that, though it didn’t stop former Bucks coach Jason Kidd from undervaluing Monroe. Kidd was never going to make the most of Moose and his skills, which is why trading Moose for Eric Bledsoe has worked: 32 mins of Bledsoe usually beats 20 mins of Monroe (in the world of BIER, anyway), though not at the production level Monroe’s been contributing in Boston. If it seems the Bucks are no better than they were last season — and probably worse considering they won 20 of their last 30 on their run to the playoffs — remember that Kidd was playing Monroe 25 mins or more during that stretch, and that this season they’ve been without Malcolm Brogdon since early February.
Way to end on a bum note, dude.
Sorry man, I couldn’t help it — thinking about the Bucks and their politics this season just has that sort of effect.
Celtics-Wizards tips off at 7:05 CST tonight on TNT.
Spoiler Hawks – In the course of writing this, I noticed that the most recent games for both the Celtics and the Wizards were against the Hawks, and that the Hawks played spoiler and beat them both. Just an odd factoid, perhaps. The Hawks opponent tonight in Atlanta happens to be Philly. Can the Hawks make it a hat trick? And would it change anything for the Bucks? . . . nope.