Giannis Antetokounmpo believes NBA history is within the reach of the Milwaukee Bucks despite them falling 3-0 behind to the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs.

The Heat moved within a game of progressing to the Eastern Conference finals with a 115-100 win over the top-seeded Bucks on Friday.

Milwaukee led by 12 points going into the final quarter but were incredibly outscored 40-13 in the final 12 minutes of Game 3 of the semifinals.

The Bucks will attempt to keep their season alive with victory in Game 4 on Sunday.

And reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, who tweaked his ankle in the first quarter but still had 21 points with 16 rebounds and nine assists, knows Milwaukee cannot afford another fourth-quarter slump.

"We played well for three quarters, we just got to be able to do that for four quarters," said Antetokounmpo.

"You've got to play hard for 48 minutes. We've got to play harder, we've got to play better."

No NBA team has overturned a 3-0 series deficit but Antetokounmpo added: "Mentally, we're in a good place. If there's a team that can beat a team four straight it can be us.

"We've just got to believe in ourselves. We can do it. We've done things before where nobody believed in us."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer stressed the need to move on quickly after a contentious ending to the Milwaukee Bucks' defeat to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

A breathless finish had seen Khris Middleton sink three free throws after Goran Dragic was judged to have stepped in his landing area to tie up a game in which 51 personal fouls were whistled for in Orlando.

But more drama followed when it was ruled Antetokounmpo fouled Jimmy Butler at the buzzer, with Bucks head coach Budenholzer having already used up his challenge.

Butler kept his nerve to sink the two free throws and seal a 116-114 win that sees the Heat move 2-0 in front, while it was just the third time in playoff history a game ended on free throws after time expired.

"I tried to make it tough for Jimmy," Antetokounmpo, who finished with a game-high 29 points, reflected on the decision. "The refs said there was contact there. Maybe there was, I've got to watch the play. 

"It is what it is. I tried to contest the shot, but they said there was contact there, so I've got to watch [the] play." 

The Bucks now face an uphill battle as the previous 11 teams to trail 2-0 in a best-of-seven series having recorded the best regular-season record went on to be eliminated, and Antetokounmpo issued a rallying cry to his team-mates.

"It's about us. It's always going to be about us. That's why we practice. That's why we go through our game plan. That's why we've got to come out and play harder," added Antetokounmpo, whose team also lost twice to the Heat in the regular season. 

"That's why we've got to make more shots. It's always going to be about us. It's not about what the other team is going to do. 

"It might be the Miami Heat now, next round might be a different team, next year might be a different team. It's always going to be about us.

"How can we get better? How can we not repeat the same mistakes? How can we not down the stretch make turnovers? How can we create easier shots?

"It's always going to be about us. It's never going to be about the other team that we're playing."

Budenholzer was not happy with the decisive call but followed a similar line to his star man.

"I would say we're disappointed with the judgment, with the decision, the timing," he said.

"It's a tough job. I have a lot of respect for the officials and the crew tonight. It's not an easy job, and of course we have our way of seeing things and we're going to disagree, but we need to shift our attention to Game 3 and get prepared for that. Understand that that's the most important thing right now."

Conversely, Butler had no doubt the right decision was made, saying: "It was an iso [isolated one-v-one], Goran [Dragic] made a hell of a pass on the inbound, then just wait for the clock to go out," Butler said. 

"A step-back jumper and I got fouled, [he] pushed me in the back. Can't deny that, and then I knew I had to make one out of two so I ended up, I think I made both of them and we win."

Giannis Antetokounmpo did not ask to guard Jimmy Butler as the Miami Heat star caught fire in the fourth quarter and handed the Milwaukee Bucks a shock loss in Game 1.

Butler scored 40 points – 15 of which came in the final period – as the Heat took the lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals series with a 115-104 victory on Monday.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, was held to 18 points – just the sixth time this season he has been kept below 20 when playing over 30 minutes. In the fourth quarter, he scored just three points while shooting 1-of-4 from the field and the free throw line and contributing six turnovers.

The Bucks as a whole added just 18 points in the final 12 minutes, with Butler taking the game away from them and putting Miami in the driving seat.

Antetokounmpo, the 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, did not consider trying to take the lead in keeping Butler at bay.

Asked if he requested to be switched onto Butler late on, Antetokounmpo replied: "To guard him? No, I didn't. Why would you ask that?"

On whether it was something he would look to do going forward, he added: "No, I'll do whatever coach tells me to do."

Although Antetokounmpo had 10 rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one block, he was restricted to just 12 shots across the game as the Heat tightened up defensively after giving away 40 points in the first quarter.

"I've just got to keep making the right play, keep playing good basketball, keep finding my team-mates," he said.

"They're going to try to build a wall this game, the next game, the whole series. I've got to keep making the right play.

"When the game is over and you look at the stat sheet and see 12 shots, you have to wonder why I didn't shoot more, could I have been more aggressive. But I think I just tried to make the right play. Win or lose, you've got to live with it."

Jimmy Butler put on a show as the Miami Heat topped the Milwaukee Bucks 115-104 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals in the NBA playoffs.

Butler posted a playoff career-high 40 points to lead the Heat past the top-seeded Bucks at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

A five-time All-Star, Butler scored 14 of his points in the final quarter as fifth seeds the Heat upstaged Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

Butler became just the third player in Miami's postseason history to have at least 40 points, following in the footsteps of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Heat team-mate Goran Dragic added 27 points for Miami, whose 5-0 start to the playoffs is tied for the best ever by a team seeded fifth or lower, per STATS. The Washington Wizards also started 5-0 as the fifth seeds in 2015.

Despite outscoring the Heat 40-29 in the opening quarter, the Bucks were unable to hold on as the Heat's defence starred.

Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo had 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks, who were led by Khris Middleton's 28 points.

The Heat and Bucks will meet again in Game 2 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder forced a Game 7 against the Houston Rockets after prevailing 104-100.

Facing elimination in the Western Conference opening round, veteran Chris Paul came up big for the Thunder with 28 points and seven rebounds.

Trailing 98-92 with just over four minutes remaining, former Rockets guard Paul was clutch for the Thunder, nailing a pair of three-pointers down the stretch to lift his team.

James Harden recorded 32 points and eight rebounds for the beaten Rockets, who face the Thunder in Wednesday's decider, while Russell Westbrook had seven turnovers against his former team.

 

Jazz face Nuggets

The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets will go head-to-head in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round matchup on Tuesday. The Boston Celtics and defending champions the Toronto Raptors are also in action in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to a 4-1 series victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA playoffs.

The NBA postseason resumed at Walt Disney World Resort on Saturday following a three-day strike amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice after the shooting of Jacob Blake – a black man – in Wisconsin.

James posted 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while Davis finished with 43 points in Saturday's 131-122 win in the Western Conference first round.

Davis and James became the first duo since the ABA-NBA merger to score 35-plus points on 70-plus percent shooting each in the same playoff game, per STATS.

The top-seeded Lakers will face either the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks advanced in the Eastern Conference thanks to their 118-104 victory over the Orlando Magic.

The Bucks, who triggered protests throughout professional sports in the United States on Wednesday, were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo in their return to the court.

Bucks star and reigning MVP Antetokounmpo had 28 points and 17 rebounds as the Miami Heat await in the next round.

 

Rockets soar as Harden stars

James Harden posted 31 points to lead the Rockets to a 114-80 rout of the Thunder and a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference. Fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook also returned from injury.

A Nikola Vucevic double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds were not enough for the eliminated Magic.

In the absence of All-Star team-mate Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum put up 36 points, while Carmelo Anthony had 27 of his own.

 

Rough night for Gallinari and Thunder

Danilo Gallinari managed just one point in the Thunder's heavy loss. He was 0 of five from the field, while missing all three attempts from beyond the arc in 22 minutes. Thunder team-mate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, meanwhile, only posted four points on six-of-eight shooting from the field, and 0 of four from three-point range.

In Orlando's defeat, Gary Clark played 24 minutes and was 0 of four from the field and 0 of three from beyond the arc. He made one of two free throws.

 

LeBron and Davies combine

The two All-Stars continue to flourish in pursuit of the ultimate goal – an NBA championship.

 

Saturday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 118-104 Orlando Magic
Houston Rockets 114-80 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers 131-122 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Celtics face Raptors

The Eastern Conference second-round series between the Boston Celtics and defending champions the Toronto Raptors gets underway on Sunday.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the first time.

Antetokounmpo claimed the award by a landslide, with 75 of the 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who voted selecting the Greek giant.

The 25-year-old is only the fifth player to land both the NBA MVP and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year gongs in his career.

Antetokounmpo, the 2018-19 MVP, was informed he had won the award by Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer after he scored 31 points in a 121-106 Game 4 playoff win over the Orlando Magic on Monday.

He said: "Usually when coach wants to talk to us after a game, somebody messed up or somebody did something. So, in my head, I'm like, 'okay.' I'm looking around like, 'Who did something?' Because I know I didn't do nothing."

Antetokounmpo added: "At the end of the day, when you go out there and compete and when you have guys behind you and next to you that compete as hard, awards like this can come.

"What I get from this is that you have to win. You have to do whatever it takes every day to go out there and put yourself in a position, put your team in a position to win, and good things are going to happen, and everything is going to take care of itself."

Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Kevin Garnett are the other four to have won the NBA MVP and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The Bucks lead the Magic 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs and can seal their place in the Eastern Conference semi-finals with a victory on Wednesday.

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT 

 

Celebrating CPL, digitally

I am extremely impressed with the Caribbean Premier League and Digicel for the work that they have put in to ensure that cricket fans enjoy the sport they love amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The CPL experience has come alive and is available at home on television or on-the-go via the SportsMax app.  

The T20 competition has started with a bang and, despite the pause on cricket due to the pandemic, the players have dusted off the rust and has been competitive and entertaining for the fans at home. The reviews, comments, and debates on social media have been encouraging. Fans are deeply appreciative of the work that has gone into ensuring the tournament is a success. 

As a Trinbago Knight Riders fan since the start of this CPL season, Sunil Narine has impressed me. His blistering knock, which sent the Knight Riders to the top of the table, was a sight for sore eyes. Two back-to-back scores of 50 and 3 wickets in two games – very impressive! CPL continues to deliver! 

 

Sevilla has the Europa League recipe for success! 

After winning the Europa League for a sixth time, without a doubt, Sevilla has the key for success. Diego Carlos' overhead kick deflected in off Romelu Lukaku 16 minutes from time, to beat Inter Milan 3-2 in a thrilling final in Cologne. Not even the coronavirus could stop Sevilla's love affair with the Europa League. 

“It's incredible. We had such tough games, I think, the whole tournament but we played so well as a team, and you could see it during the tournament. We were really a team, like a family,” Sevilla forward Luuk de Jong said, after scoring with two headers. 

 Sevilla won it. They won it in 2006, 2007, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2020. Six adorned the T-shirts that they had made.  Congrats Sevilla! 

 

 The Milwaukee Bucks with Giannis is a force! 

The Milwaukee Bucks had a topsy-turvy start to the playoffs. However, things are falling into place for them. They won games 2 and 3 comfortably and it was all due to the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. What is clear is the Greek Freak has improved with each passing season and established himself as one of the best players in the NBA.  

Antetokounmpo joins Kareem Abdul- Jabbar as the only Bucks players with a 20-point, 20-rebound game in the playoffs. Abdul-Jabbar did it 18 times with the Bucks. It has been 49 years since the Bucks won an NBA Championship.  Can Giannis Antetokounmpo bring a championship to Milwaukee Bucks?  That is the biggest question this season! 

 

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo said the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks have adopted the tag of "underdogs", despite claiming a series lead over the Orlando Magic in the NBA playoffs.

Antetokounmpo's double-double helped the Bucks defeat the Magic 121-107 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup in Orlando on Saturday.

The reigning MVP posted 35 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Bucks earned a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series at Walt Disney World Resort, where Milwaukee were stunned in Game 1.

Milwaukee – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – are one of the favourites to win the title, but Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are playing with a different mindset.

"We have high confidence about ourselves," Antetokounmpo said post-game. "We believe in ourselves, our team, our game plan and coach.

"But not the end of the day, we're not the champions… if you don't go out there and take it or if you don't play with a chip on your shoulder and play hard every second, it's not going to happen. That's life. There's no way to work around it.

"For me and for the team, we're gonna go out there and play hard. "We're not gonna play like the favourites, we're gonna play like the underdogs. From now on, that's how we're gonna be. If we make it till then, great. If we don't, that doesn't matter. We're gonna be ourselves."

"I think we're all hard on ourselves," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "But basketball isn't what you did in the past or what you're going to do in the future. It's about what you're doing right now.

"That's my whole mindset, my whole life. Right now, we played good. Hopefully we can carry this onto the next game. Play good defence, keep playing together and playing good basketball."

It was a physical battle between the Bucks and eighth seeds the Magic following a second-quarter scuffle involving Milwaukee's Marvin Williams and Orlando forward James Ennis.

Both players were ejected after exchanging shoves.

The Bucks, though, were not to be stopped after leading 70-43 at half-time and by as many as 34 points in the third period.

"I was just trying to play hard," said Antetokounmpo, who went 12 of 14 from the field in 31 minutes.

"Obviously it was an early game today, we played at 1 p.m., [when] usually we're not as focused, when the game starts, we're kind of a little bit lazy. I was trying to set the tone, play hard, guard my guy, take that individual challenge with my guy, trying to be active. I was just trying to be all over the place."

"There's going to be times that I'm not going to play well, and Khris [Middleton] is going to carry the team," Antetokounmpo continued. "There's going to be times when we're both not going to play well, and Brook and Bled are going to carry the team.

"Khris is really important to this team, obviously. I can say it. Coach can say it, the team. Everybody knows that."

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "All of us feed off of Giannis and his leadership and his energy and his competitiveness. I think when he's showing it and sharing it with all of us, toughing all of us, it's great. He's our leader. We needed it."

Game 4 between the Bucks and Magic is on Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says the Milwaukee Bucks did not have a fear factor as they drew level in their playoff series against the Orlando Magic but conceded there was an urgency about the team.

The Bucks were shocked in Game 1 of the series when Nikola Vucevic's 35 points inspired the Magic to a 122-110 triumph in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

Vucevic was a thorn in the Bucks' side again on Thursday, finishing with 32 points and 10 rebounds, but it was a quiet night from his Magic team-mates as Milwaukee ran out 111-96 victors.

Antetokounmpo was typically influential and in scoring 28 points and picking up 20 rebounds he became just the second Bucks player after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to have a 20-point, 20-rebound game in the playoffs.

The 25-year-old said defeat would not have been fatal to the Bucks but recognised the team was extra focused not to go two games down in the series.

"There's an urgency. I'm not going to say there's a fear factor – being down – but you know you have to be urgent," he said.

"I think the whole team was ready for this game. You've got to understand, you don't want to be down 2-0.

"We can still get back, but you don't want to put yourself in that position, especially early in the playoffs.

"We knew that we had to come out and just play hard, try to get a win, and as a team, we knew for us to get a win we gotta play hard.

"We cannot talk about it; we gotta play about it."

Antetokounmpo added that a message from head coach Mike Budenholzer also elicited a response from the Bucks.

"He told us if we want to win and if we want to go far and if we want to be us, we've got to play defense, and we didn't do that in the first game," Antetokounmpo said.

"I think everybody took that personally. Nobody liked that. Nobody wants to hear that he's not playing hard enough, so I think the whole team came out playing hard. Everybody was playing hard."

It was a day of upsets in the NBA playoffs as the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic upstaged the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks respectively.

Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers powered past top seeds the Lakers 100-93 in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series on Tuesday, while the Magic stunned the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks 122-110 in their Eastern Conference opener.

It is the second time in NBA postseason history that both eighth seeds have beaten the top seeds in Game 1, per STATS. The other occasion was in 2003, when the Magic and Phoenix Suns trumped the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs.

Lillard maintained his red-hot form with 34 points to inspire the Trail Blazers at Walt Disney World Resort, where Trail Blazers team-mates CJ McCollum (21 points) and Carmelo Anthony (11 points and 10 rebounds) made solid contributions in Orlando, Florida.

LeBron James' triple-double of 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists were not enough as the Lakers superstar (12-2) lost for just the second time in the opening game of a first-round matchup.

The Magic – without a playoff series win since 2010 – did not follow the script as they took down the Bucks thanks to Nikola Vucevic's big night.

Vucevic had a playoff career-high 35 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Magic past the Bucks, who swept the season series by winning four games by an average of 17 points.

A double-double of 31 points and 17 rebounds from reigning MVP Antetokounmpo was not enough to lift the Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971.

 

Harden launches Rockets, Butler's Heat cool Pacers

No Russell Westbrook, no problem for the Houston Rockets. In the absence of the injured star, James Harden posted 37 points and 11 rebounds as the Rockets – seeded fourth in the west – soared past the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-108 in their series opener. Houston made 20 three-pointers.

Danilo Gallinari matched a playoff career-high with 29 points for the fifth-seeded Thunder. Chris Paul recorded 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against his former team. Steven Adams put up 17 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double.

Jimmy Butler fuelled the Miami Heat's 113-101 victory over the fourth-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game 1. Butler had 28 points, including two big three-pointers in the final quarter. Goran Dragic added 24 points, while Bam Adebayo (17 points and 10 rebounds) finished with a double-double.

 

Oladipo adds to Pacers' defeat

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is day-to-day after injuring his left eye against the Heat. Oladipo was inadvertently poked in the eye by Miami's Jae Crowder with just over three minutes remaining in the opening quarter. He had scored four points in nine minutes prior to exiting.

Dennis Schroder struggled to make an impact in 32 minutes for the Thunder. A threat off the bench, Schroder was three of 12 from the field while he missed all five three-point attempts for just six points.

Milwaukee made 43 per cent from the field, and were 14 of 42 from three-point land against the Magic.

 

No stopping LeBron!

James flew past the Trail Blazers en route to his swift basket.

Somehow, a diving Adebayo made this stunning shot for the Heat with his back towards the rim.

Tuesday's results

Houston Rockets 123-108 Oklahoma City Thunder
Miami Heat 113-101 Indiana Pacers
Orlando Magic 122-110 Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers 100-93 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers face Celtics

Can the Philadelphia 76ers bounce back from their Game 1 loss against old rivals the Boston Celtics? Philadelphia will meet Boston on Wednesday, with the Celtics to be without injured star Gordon Hayward (ankle).

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo called for more aggression from the Eastern Conference top seeds following their surprise defeat to the Orlando Magic in the opening game of the first-round NBA playoff series.

The Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – were sensationally upstaged 122-110 by the Magic in Orlando on Tuesday, despite 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists from Antetokounmpo.

Eighth seeds the Magic have not won a postseason series since 2010 but Nikola Vucevic's playoff career-high 35 points and 14 rebounds helped Orlando take down Milwaukee in the first-round opener at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Bucks ended the regular season with the best win-loss record, but Milwaukee entered the Eastern Conference matchup having become the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign (52-8) prior to that.

Amid their struggle for form, reigning MVP Antetokounmpo told reporters: "We just have to play hard. Just make them feel uncomfortable. We were doing it at times but have to do it for longer stretches in the game.

"They felt comfortable. We have to learn from it. Hopefully we can come out in Game 2 more aggressive and physical. Get them off their rhythm."

"There's no magic wand to point and things are going to change," Antetokounmpo said. "You've got to come out, play hard, play even harder, play together and have fun.

"There's no crowd, no fans to cheer you on and give you that extra energy, so you have to do it yourself."

Unlike previous seasons, there is no home-court advantage in the playoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the league underway inside the NBA bubble.

Asked about Walt Disney World Resort and whether being away from home has impacted the Bucks, Antetokounmpo replied: "One thing I'll say is that we play a game or practice and obviously we're in the bubble and are unable to go home. We don't get to be away from basketball, even for a few hours.

"If things were normal, we'd be back home on our own court and after the game, we go home and spend time with our families. Watch a movie, eat your favourite foods and sleep in your own bed. You're just comfortable. Now, it just feels like we're always at work. You can't escape basketball.

"But it is what it is. It's not just us, there's 16 teams in the bubble going through the same thing… But we just have to do our job, go out there, have fun and play basketball."

With the regular season over, it's time for business in the Orlando bubble.

The Portland Trail Blazers completed the NBA's playoff bracket with their play-in win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Now, Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks, the LeBron-James led Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams vying for supremacy at Walt Disney World Resort.

With the postseason scheduled to start on Monday, we use STATS data to preview the first-round series.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (1) v Orlando Magic (8)

Eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971, the Bucks head into the opening-round series struggling for form.

The Bucks, who went 52-8 from their first 60 games, recorded a 4-9 win-loss ratio from their last 13 fixtures – becoming the first team in NBA history to have more losses in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire season prior to that.

Inside the bubble but in familiar surroundings, the Magic have the chance to snap a playoff drought, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Not since 2010 have the Magic won a playoff series. Orlando swept the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks en route to the Conference finals, before losing to the Boston Celtics. The Magic have since suffered first-round exits at the hands of the Hawks (2011), Indiana Pacers (2012) and Toronto Raptors (2019).

Toronto Raptors (2) v Brooklyn Nets (7)

Defending champions the Raptors have form on their side in pursuit of back-to-back championships.

Toronto went 27-5 over their last 32 games, easily the best record in the NBA during that period – ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10), Los Angeles Clippers (20-10), Bucks (20-11) and Celtics (21-13).

Nets star Spencer Dinwiddie has been one of the most clutch players this season, making an NBA-high seven go-ahead baskets in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Dinwiddie's seven for 13 is better than the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (five), Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets (both four).

Boston Celtics (3) v Philadelphia 76ers (6)

The Celtics renew hostilities with rivals the 76ers, having won the past four series between the two teams – Philadelphia have not claimed a series against Boston in the playoffs since 1982.

Philadelphia's hopes will rest on Joel Embiid in the absence of injured fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who is the only player in NBA history to average 8.0-plus rebounds and 8.0-plus assists per game for his career.

The 76ers are 35-22 (.614 per cent) with Simmons in the team, while they are just 7-8 (.467 per cent) without the Australian star on the court. Philadelphia also allow more opposition points per game in his absence – 113.6 compared to 107.2.

Indiana Pacers (4) v Miami Heat (5)

All eyes will be on Indiana's T.J. Warren, who averaged 31.0 points per game with a .664 effective field-goal percentage this month following the restart.

Since 1985-86, the players with 30.0-plus points and a .650-plus effective field-goal percentage in a month (minimum five game played) are Charles Barkley (1990), Stephen Curry (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), Antetokounmpo (2017 and 2019) and Karl Anthony-Towns (2019).

With Heat pair Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, Miami are the first NBA team to have two undrafted players averaging 13.0-plus points per game in the same season – minimum 70 per cent of team games played – since the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956-57 (Joe Graboski and Neil Johnston).

 

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Making their first postseason appearance since 2013, the Lakers – who have a 74.6 per cent chance of winning this series using Stats Perform's advanced simulation tool – are one of the favourites to go all the way thanks to James and Anthony Davis.

James and Davis have combined well in LA, where the former has supplied 184 assists for the All-Star recruit this season – the most to one player in 2019-20, ahead of Damian Lillard to Hassan Whiteside (132). Three-time champion and four-time MVP James is also the second-oldest player to average 10 assists or more in a season in NBA history, with Steve Nash averaging 10.0-plus assists in each of his final three campaigns.

This will be the second playoff meeting between James and Carmelo Anthony. James and the Heat eliminated Anthony and the New York Knicks in the first round in 2012. Both averaged 27.8 points in the series. James was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Anthony was the third pick. Their matchups date back to high school, when LeBron was at St. Vincent St. Mary's and Carmelo at Oak Hill Academy.

Portland's go-to man Lillard leads the NBA in scoring inside the bubble at 37.6 per game, including the play-in clash. The Trail Blazers star is averaging 46.3 points in his past four games following a career-high 61 against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month. He has contributed to Portland averaging a league-high 126.0 points per game at Walt Disney World Resort, while the Lakers have only managed 106.4 points per game – the second worst behind the Washington Wizards.

How about most points per game by team-mate duos? Lillard and CJ McCollum (52.2) are second to James Harden and Russell Westbrook (61.5) but ahead of third-placed James and Davis (51.4).

Los Angeles Clippers (2) v Dallas Mavericks (7)

Can Leonard claim consecutive NBA titles after leading the Raptors to their first champion last season? Well it all begins against the Mavericks.

Leonard – the 2019 Finals MVP – averaged a career-high 27.1 points per game this season, while he averaged 30.5 during last year's playoffs. The four-time All-Star has also averaged 31.0 points per game in three games against the Mavericks this term, with the Clippers sweeping the season series.

Led by Luka Doncic, the Mavericks boast the second-highest offensive rating ever – 113.7 – behind last year's Golden State Warriors (113.9). The Clippers have a 111.1 rating, tied with the Trail Blazers for second this season.

Doncic is averaging 30.0 points, 10.1 assists and 9.7 rebounds in the bubble. The reigning Rookie of the Year also has three triple-doubles, including a 20-rebound triple-double.

Denver Nuggets (3) v Utah Jazz (6)

A Jazz team boasting the likes of Joe Ingles and Mitchell are the best three-point shooting team at 38.0 per cent, though Utah went 2-5 in their last seven regular-season games – allowing 110-plus points per game.

Rudy Gobert is also one shy of 250 career double-doubles as the Jazz look to avenge their season sweep at the hands of the Nuggets, though each game was decided by six or fewer points.

The Nuggets made the Conference semi-finals last season, snapping a five-year playoff drought. Jovic will be key for Denver, having averaged 7.0 assists per game for a second successive season – the most by any center in the NBA.

Houston Rockets (4) v Oklahoma City Thunder (5)

It will be a reunion as Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul face their former teams.

The Rockets have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs in three straight seasons and their hopes will depend on the team's starting five – their starters are averaging 89.1 points per game, the most in the league.

Former Thunder star Harden is also coming off his third consecutive season averaging 30 or more points per game (34.3 in 2019-20). He is the franchise's all-time leader in postseason assists (510) and second in points (2,061) behind Hakeem Olajuwon (3,727).

Westbrook, who arrived from the Thunder in a blockbuster trade at the start of the season, is second all-time for Oklahoma City in playoff points (2,489), behind Kevin Durant's 2,620, third in rebounds (686), first in assists (778) and first in steals (184).

The Thunder, boasting ex-Rockets guard Paul, have not progressed beyond the first round of the postseason since 2016 after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Conference Finals.

Giannis Antetokounmpo expressed his regret after being ejected for headbutting Mo Wagner but added he had "done a great job all year and in my career" to ignore "dirty plays".

The reigning NBA MVP left the Milwaukee Bucks' 126-113 win over the Washington Wizards in the second quarter following the incident with Wagner.

Antetokounmpo had 12 points and nine rebounds in just 10 minutes before his frustration boiled over.

The Greek was rueful afterwards, promised to learn from the clash and insisted there was no personal issue with Wagner, although he also took the opportunity to complain of the repeated rough treatment he feels he is dealt in the league.

"It's a terrible action," he told reporters. "If I could turn back time and go back to that play, I wouldn't do it. But at the end of the day, we're all human, we all make mistakes.

"I think I've done a great job all year and in my career, keeping my composure and focusing on the game. But like I say, we're all human, we all make mistakes.

"I'll learn from it, keeping playing good basketball and keep moving forward.

"I don't think I was frustrated with Wagner. I think it was just the whole build-up of dirty plays in my mind, guys tripping me, guys falling in front of my feet, holding me, hitting me.

"I have nothing against Wagner - it wasn't just him. Just in my mind, in all the games I've played, there's guys hitting me. I lost it for a second.

"Like I said, if I could go back, I'd change it so I could stay in the game. I've got to live with it. It's a bad mistake from me, I'll learn from it.

"I'm glad we were able to play good basketball, I'm happy we were having fun and were able to win the game. We've got to keep getting ready for the playoffs."

Suggesting such an episode had been coming for some time, Antetokounmpo said he would work to ensure there was no repeat.

"Usually I try to just stay focused, finish the game, don't do something stupid," he said.

"But there's always times when you're in the zone and you don't think. It might take a second or two, you don't think and you do something dumb.

"My whole career I've had great team-mates around me, great coaching staff, and I think I've done a great job being locked in, not feeling much from what the other team's game plan is, what they're trying to accomplish from hitting me.

"But, man, today was the day. Hopefully it's the last one. I know the hits are going to keep coming."

Asked what his team-mates had told him, Antetokounmpo said: "They told me to learn from it, that they need me on the floor, they need me out there playing good basketball.

"I've got to be a leader. I've got to learn from this. I'm happy now, but this could happen in the playoffs, it could happen in a big game.

"They're 100 per cent right. It's my fault, fellas. They're 100 per cent right. But they know me, they know I've done a great job keeping my composure.

"They said, 'okay, it's acceptable, it's human for Giannis to lose it for a second once'. But they told me I've got to learn from it, they're 100 per cent right, and hopefully it doesn't repeat itself in the future."

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the Milwaukee Bucks' 114-106 NBA loss to the Toronto Raptors after undergoing dental surgery.

Antetokounmpo was a notable absentee as the Eastern Conference's top seed fell to defending champions the Raptors in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

The reigning MVP had an oral operation, with the Bucks due to conclude their regular-season campaign against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday ahead of the playoffs.

"The league has protocols as far as dealing with dental and situations like this that Giannis and our sports performance group were able to follow and adhere to," said Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer.

"Very, very fortunate the league has thought through everything. He obviously needed some attention and was able to get it and he's going to be with us today and we'll see about playing and when that's going to happen."

Antetokounmpo has been averaging 29.8 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game for the Bucks this season.

The Bucks (55-16) are eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971.

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