The 2020-21 NBA regular season is less than a week from the end, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the standings. Apart from the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, all the other seeds are in serious jeopardy. So, with the jockey in full swing and the teams desperately trying to manipulate the medium, here are the four most important takeaways from Monday’s fixture list.
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1. History was made in Atlanta
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new triple-double king in the NBA. Russell Westbrook notched his 182nd triple-double on Monday with 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds, overtaking Oscar Robertson for the most in NBA history. Afterwards, congratulations came from across the NBA for this historic achievement.
If you can believe it, this might not be Westbrook’s last triple-double of the season. While the shortened 72-game schedule will prevent him from matching his NBA record of 42 triple-doubles in one season, the fact that he has 36 gives him a chance to have the most triple-double season. efficient all the time. If he lands triple doubles in his last three games, he will have done so in 39 of 72 games overall, meaning he has done so in 54% of all Wizards games. In his 42 triple-double season, he only did so in 51.2% of Oklahoma City games. In other words, not only does Westbrook now have the all-time record, but it becomes perhaps the greatest triple-double season of all time.
2. The Bucks stop here
It should have been so simple. Beat four teams below 0.500 and defend their home turf against the Miami Heat, and the Milwaukee Bucks would have been the second seed in the Eastern Conference. That would have given them a play-in opponent in the first round and given them an on-court advantage in the second against the Brooklyn Nets. What could possibly go wrong?
How about an 87-point half by the San Antonio Spurs? Milwaukee’s defense collapsed on Monday, and their hopes for the No.2 seed could have gone with it. They now need the Nets to lose one of their next four games to get it back. The remaining four games are against opponents under .500: Spurs, Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Unless someone can knock out Brooklyn, the Nets will host their second-round streak against the Bucks.
That, in a nutshell, is not necessarily devastating. Granted, 80% of 7 games are won by local teams, but the Bucks would still only need one game on the road to beat the Nets. What is much more worrying is the state of their defense with so little time in the season. Milwaukee shied away from the cover schedule that gave him basketball’s No.1 defense in each of the past two seasons in order to adopt a more playoff-centric style that hurt them in the regular season. The growing pains were natural … in February and March. It is now May and the Bucks have the 17th defense in the NBA since April 1. It doesn’t matter where they play the Nets if they can’t stop them, and based on how they look now, they can’t.
3. Portland season at a glance
The Portland Trail Blazers scored 50 points in the first quarter on Monday. It’s a tremendous accomplishment, but not entirely unexpected for the NBA’s No.4 offense. Portland has the firepower to shoot anyone, but its porous defense is weak enough to supercharge even the worst enemy offenses. The Blazers were playing the worst team in the NBA on Monday, but in the fourth quarter their lead fell to just five points.
Only the Blazers could be so close to wasting a 50-point quarterback. If they had, they probably would have resigned themselves to the play-in round. Their remaining three games are against the Jazz, Suns and Nuggets, and the Lakers only need two losses in Portland to pass the Blazers. Unlike the Lakers, the concept of the play-in round should terrify Portland. They don’t have LeBron James waiting backstage. Defending champions may feel much more comfortable with the idea of ââwinning every other game than a Portland team who still have so much defensive difficulty. Portland, thankfully, managed to pull this one out, but if their defense doesn’t strengthen against the three remaining contenders on their schedule, the Blazers are still in real danger of falling into the play-in round.
4. All that jazz
The Blazers are trying to stop the Lakers from overtaking them. The Jazz are trying to stop the Lakers from playing against them. Right now, the Lakers are expected to finish No.7 in the Western Conference. All the Jazz would need to avoid them in the first round would be to win their first play-in match against the No. 8 seed. But what if the Jazz fall to No. 2? They are directly on LeBron’s war path.
By losing to the Warriors on Monday, the Jazz gave up their margin of error. Phoenix has the tiebreaker, so a single loss would give the Suns control over the seed. This Portland game will be Utah’s biggest test. If they can get through the Blazers, they should be able to handle the Kings and the Thunder.
Of course, the downside of staying No.1 is that it could position the Jazz to face the player who destroyed them on Monday. Stephen Curry scored 36 in the Golden State victory. It was his seventh straight 30-point game, and when you include his previous 11-game streak, he has the two longest 30-point streaks in basketball.
Jazz is still not healthy. Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell stay away. But Curry’s excellence suggests that there are no easy matchups available in the Western Conference. Utah would rather avoid the Lakers for as long as possible, but that doesn’t mean they’re excited to face Curry.