Even with only two or three games left in the regular season, most first round playoff matchups remain unconfirmed, and are likely to be in flux until the final standings have been cemented.
Thanks to a combination of events on Saturday, we know of at least one playoff series that is officially set: The Miami Heat will open their quest to win a second straight title with a first round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Celtics clinched the seventh seed with a win in Orlando on Saturday, and that, coupled with a Milwaukee loss to the Bobcats, locked in the Bucks’ first round date against the Heat.
Milwaukee has actually beaten Miami once this season, and pushed the Heat to overtime in Miami back in November. But the teams have been trending in very different directions as of late, with the Heat going a ridiculous 34-2 since Feb. 3, while the Bucks have won just three of their last 14 games.
Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.
Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.
Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.
That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?
It just won’t die.
Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.
Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.
76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.
It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.
The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.
Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).
Norman Powell – get out of here.
Jared Sullinger – get out of here.
Dario Saric blocked consecutive dunk attempts in the 76ers’ 94-89 win over the Raptors. Philadelphia has won seven of nine and looks suddenly revitalized.
The best part of all this? Saric’s teammates’ reactions – though the actual blocks were pretty great themselves.