After a collapse on the road to the Nuggets that included blowing an 18-point fourth quarter lead, the Bucks headed home and got back on track Tuesday night with a solid team effort against the Celtics. Milwaukee shot a woeful 5/20 from three, but managed to shoot efficiently from inside, finishing 54.4% from the field overall and winning the game, 106-102.
The victory pulled the Bucks into a three-way tie with the Heat and Wizards for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Miami and Washington have locked in to at least one of the spots, and Milwaukee should soon as either a win or a Detroit loss secures their place.
Miami is coming off a sketchy-looking win over the lowly Atlanta Hawks and Washington just got pummelled by the Houston Rockets. Meanwhile, the Bucks have been putting in solid performances (subtracting the fourth quarter and overtime against Denver). So with four games left, who is on the schedule?
Washington Wizards (6)
The Wizards’ last four games are going to be interesting to watch unfold. After a strong first game back with John Wall in the lineup, the Wizards stunk it up in Houston. Sure, you can argue that the Rockets are just that good but it also raises the question of how well things will flow as Wall works his way back into peak performance.
Washington first travels to Cleveland, where LeBron will almost inevitably has remained scorching hot. That’s a tough turnaround after playing in Houston. Then the team heads home for two games, first with Boston and then Atlanta. Boston presents a third straight top-tier challenge and the Wizards will need to bring their A-game. Finally, they finish up in Orlando. If Washington goes 2-2 in these games, they could drop down from their current sixth spot thanks to tie-breakers.
Miami Heat (7)
The Heat have won three of their last four, but choked a weird one against the Brooklyn Nets over the weekend. They turned it around against the Hawks on Tuesday, but it was another nail-biter that playoff teams should certainly be avoiding at this point in the season.
Miami will face the Hawks again tonight, this time in Atlanta in a game they will surely need to approach with more focus. They then travel to New York to match up with the unicorn-less Knicks before heading home to finish the regular season. Back in Miami, the desperate Oklahoma City Thunder come to town first in what ought to be a great game to watch. They then finish up with the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. Miami, too, will face two should-be cupcakes and two strong playoff teams.
Milwaukee Bucks (8)
After the brutal loss to the Nuggets on Sunday, the Bucks righted the ship against Boston and have won five of their last seven. Should they continue playing well with the continued emergence of Jabari Parker as he finds more comfort returning from an ACL tear, Milwaukee could jump up to the sixth seed looking at Miami and Washington’s schedules.
The Bucks have a day off before another home game, this time against the Nets. Brooklyn has surprised teams every now and then by playing good basketball, but should be a manageable game to win if Milwaukee keeps their strong form. The Bucks then fly out to play the Knicks before returning home for their last regular season game at the Bradley Center against the Magic. With three consecutive games against bottom feeder teams in the East, the Bucks will hope to be sitting in the sixth spot as they enter their final game of the season against the Philadelphia 76ers.
These final four games will define what the bulk of the Eastern Conference Playoff Tree looks like. If Milwaukee remains in the eighth seed entering postseason play, it is very possible we will get to see a Bucks versus Raptors rematch from last year’s six game series, won by Toronto.