Three Things to Know: Bucks take command of No. 2 slot in East beating Celtics

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA great.

1) Bucks take command of No. 2 slot in East beating Celtics

Milwaukee has treated this regular season with the bored disinterest reserved for champions. Picking Milwaukee to come out of the East again this season — which I am likely to do, if we’re honest — means betting on the Bucks showing interest and putting it in a gear we have only seen in flashes this season.

But the Bucks have that gear — they closed the game against the Celtics Thursday on a 9-0 run, earning a win that puts the Bucks on pace to be the No. 2 seed in the East.

This wasn’t a playoff preview game — Jayson Tatum was out — but it had some playoff-level intensity. Marcus Smart played maybe his best game of the season, scoring 29 points and hitting seven 3-pointers.

Here is where the top of the East stands now:

Miami has locked up the top seed and will have home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Milwaukee is now in command of the No. 2 seed but needs to win their remaining games to keep it (stumbling Cleveland then Detroit, both winnable but not easy games). Philadelphia is lurking in fourth, but just one game back of the Bucks and an easy closing schedule (Detroit and Indiana). If either the Celtics or Bucks stumble the last couple of games, the 76ers are lurking.

Philly may want to get out of the No. 4 seed because…

2) Toronto beats Philadelphia, reminds everyone what a tough playoff out they are

This is shaping up to be a first-round playoff matchup — and that should worry the 76ers.

Thursday night, Toronto was without their glue in Fred VanVleet at the point (managing a knee issue), plus strong wing defender OG Anunoby remains out (but is set to return before the playoffs). Still, the Raptors’ length, depth and versatility were too much for the Sixers. Toronto picked up the win behind a 37-point triple-double from Pascal Siakam where he tortured the Sixers.

All game long Siakam was too big or too quick for the Philly defenders thrown at him; he was able to get downhill and made patient and smart moves to finish. Siakam is playing at an All-NBA level.

The guy the 76ers could have used on him was Matisse Thybulle, but he was ineligible to play because you have to be vaccinated to enter Canada — this could be huge if Toronto and Philly match up in the first round. The Sixers could be without a starter and their best perimeter defender for three games in that series.

Gary Trent Jr. added 30 for Toronto. Joel Embiid had 30 points and 10 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey added 22 points, and James Harden scored 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting but added 15 assists.

If we get seven games of this in the first round, it will be interesting.

3) Anthony Edwards goes off for 49

The Timberwolves are locked into a 7/8 play-in game with the Clippers, and if Anthony Edwards plays like this, watch out.

Edwards scored a career-high 49 against a good Spurs defense on Thursday.

40-ball for Ant on a step-back, fallaway rainbow. Whew boy.

That included one poster dunk.

Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns vs. the Clippers — now with Paul George — will be interesting in the play-in.

Highlight of the Night: Nikola Jokic is making history

Nikola Jokic may or may not win back-to-back MVPs (probably will, but it’s tight), but there is no denying the numbers:

Jokic first player in NBA history with 2,000 point, 1,000 rebound, 500 assist season

Yesterday’s scores:

Hornets 128, Magic 101
Raptors 119, 76ers 114
Bucks 127, Celtics 121
Timberwolves 127, Spurs 121
Pelicans 124, Trail Blazers 94
Nuggets 122, Grizzlies 109
Warriors 128, Lakers 112