If you were busy Thursday night planning your summer vacation to go hunt the Loch Ness monster, and that kept you from watching the action around the NBA, don’t worry we’ve got your back. Here are the big takeaways from Thursday night.
1) Boston loses to Atlanta, making the dream of No. 1 seed look like a long shot. After the Celtics had been routed by the Cavaliers Wednesday night, it was going to take some Irish luck to get the No. 1 seed in the East back. Boston basically needed to win out, then get some help by having someone else beat Cleveland.
The first part of that fell apart Thursday night — Boston fell behind early to Atlanta and went on to lose 123-116. To the Celtics’ credit they fought back and got within a couple of possessions in the fourth, Brad Stevens got to play around with lineups and maybe found something that works. If nothing else, Isaiah Thomas and Paul Millsap put on a show.
With this loss, the Celtics are 1.5 games back of the Cavaliers now. But even finishing with the two seed is not bad, Boston will face a first-round matchup they should win (against whom is hard to say, the bottom of the East is still up in the air), then will come a tough second-round series against Washington or Toronto (they would have had to face one of them anyway). Boston has still had a season where Brad Stevens has gotten them to overachieve, they are just not going to get the one seed.
For Atlanta, the win put them half a game ahead of the Hawks in the battle for the five seed.
2) Chicago, Indiana help their playoff causes with wins. The bottom of the East is still the most interesting race as the season winds down — 1.5 games separates the six-seed Bucks from the nine-seed Heat. Anything can happen, which is why every team in that race needs wins.
Chicago and Indiana helped themselves with their victories Thursday night.
The Bulls got a triple-double from Jimmy Butler — — and Nikola Mirotic added 22 as the Bulls beat the Sixers. Add in a soft schedule the rest of the way and the expected return of Dwyane Wade this weekend, and things are looking up for the Bulls.
Indiana had a much tougher matchup but got 23 from Paul George and the Pacers handled the Bucks easily, 104-89. Those wins move the Pacers and the Bulls to 39-40, half a game ahead of Miami, which has a tough game against Toronto on Friday.