It’s only a few days before we get to the first games of the knockout stages of the in-season tournament, and there’s a couple of fun matchups ahead in the Eastern Conference. Here’s a quick look at the two series.
New York Knicks vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Knicks and Bucks have met once this season so far and it was a barnburner of a game. The main attraction was a duel between Jalen Brunson, the 27-year-old star for the Knicks, and the title-chasing Damian Lillard.
Brunson won the personal duel by putting up a crazy 45 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal while shooting 17 of 30 from the field.
Unfortunately for him, Lillard ended up winning the game for Milwaukee as he activated Dame Time and scored eight points in a 9-2 run to close out the game for the 110-105 win. Lillard would finish with 30 points for the night and received enough help from Giannis Antetokounmpo who had 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a block.
Brunson will need a lot more help in the do-or-die game because his teammates were pretty awful. Julius Randle had 16 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals but shot an awful 5 of 20 overall and 1 of 9 from three. Mitchell Robinson had 15 rebounds but 0 points as he missed all four of his shots.
Two additional players will make a big difference in the series as well in Khris Middleton and RJ Barrett. The former is starting to round into form after having a minutes restriction to start the season, while Barrett was unavailable for their previous game. One of those two getting hot from the field could swing the game.
Indiana Pacers vs. Boston Celtics
Man, things did not end well for the Pacers the last time they met the Celtics. They got absolutely curbstomped in an atrocious 155-104 defeat where the starters for both teams all played less than 30 minutes because the Celtics were already up 75-54 at halftime. Boston then followed that up with a 34-17 advantage in the third quarter that made most of the second half extended garbage time.
Jayson Tatum had 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists on 9 of 15 shooting to lead the Celtics in Boston’s first game over 153 points since 1970.
Seven other Celtics scored in double figures in that game and the Pacers will need to figure out how to defend a little better if they want to make it to the semi-finals. It’s definitely worth noting that star Tyrese Haliburton was unavailable for that game. He’s averaging 27 points and 11.8 assists this season and his presence will make Indiana’s offense all the deadlier.
The Celtics are overwhelmingly more talented than the Pacers, but anything can happen in a single-elimination format. It should be a fun game to watch.