Bucks Clinch Playoff Spot And Rockets Eliminated As NBA Postseason Picture Becomes Clearer

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Despite losing at home to the Knicks in a 122-109 contest, the Milwaukee Bucks qualified for the NBA playoffs on Sunday. The Houston Rockets, who were beaten for the fifth time in a row, are now officially out.

In the Eastern Conference, only one team had qualified directly for the playoffs heading into the weekend: the Boston Celtics. They were joined on Sunday by the Milwaukee Bucks, despite being dominated at home by the New York Knicks and Jalen Brunson who had 43 points and went 16-for-32 (including 2-for-6 from beyond the arc).. Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

The Houston Rockets lost to the Dallas Mavericks by a score of 147-136  in a game where Kyrie Irving scored 48 pts and Luka Doncic posted 37. Beaten for the fifth time in a row after an 11-game winning streak), the Rockets are now out of the playoff race.

As things currently stand, 10 teams have at least ensured they’ll be appearing in the postseason. In the East, Boston and Milwaukee have guaranteed they’ll be avoiding the play-in round, which is also the case with the Timberwolves, Nugget, and Thunder in the West. Orlando, New York, Cleveland, Indiana, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, and Atlanta are all still in contention for the play-in round in the East, while Dallas, Phoenix, New Orleans, Sacramento, Golden State, and both squads in Los Angeles could end up in the same position in the West. 

The Pelicans bounce back 

The New Orleans Pelicans (seventh in the Western Conference) had lost their last four games, but they responded on Sunday with a 113-105 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were just one spot ahead of them in the standing. The Louisiana franchise took a 37-24 lead in the second quarter, and while Phoenix came back to tie things at 93 apiece later in the game, they couldn’t prevent the Pelicans from regaining the lead and taking the win. C.J. McCollum (31 points) and Zion Williamson (29 pts) were the main architects of New Orleans’ success.

Clippers come back from 26 points behind

The Los Angeles Clippers hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. At the break, they were behind 80-59, But in the end, they pulled off a comeback to walk away with a 120-118 victory to overcome the 26-point deficit. Paul George was the star of the day for the Clippers with 39 points (including 23 in the final quarter), 11 rebounds, and 7 assists). He scored the winning shot with 7 seconds to go, then blocked Darius Garland’s shot attempt on the ensuing possession. Max Strus then attempted a three-pointer for Cleveland, but to no avail. The Clippers thus notched up a third consecutive victory, and the Cavaliers a third consecutive loss.

Minnesota wins against depleted Lakers

Minnesota topped the Lakers 127-117, although Los Angeles was without LeBron James (who was sick) and lost Anthony Davis to an eye injury early on. Rudy Gobert scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for Minnesota.

Golden State also played without Stephen Curry and beat Utah 118-110, with Klay Thompson scoring 32 points, including 25 in the first half. Boston dominated Portland 124-107 to record their 13th consecutive home victory. Jayson Tatum did not play (knee contusion).

This article was originally written for L’Équipe by Olivier Paquereau