Who’s the MVP in the East?
Sixers vs. Bucks: Mar. 30, 7:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines
The respective MVP campaigns of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been must-see TV–or wherever your preferred screen is–all season long. Embiid has led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 46-38 record with his 30-11-4 per game line. Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 46-38 record with his 30-12-6 per game line. Now it has come to this: their final regular season meeting with huge playoff seeding implications.
This will also be the first Sixers-Bucks matchup where Embiid can go to war against the defending champs with James Harden by his side. The last time these two teams met, Harden was already a Sixer but didn’t suit up. The Sixers won that game by three despite squandering a 15-point lead. It came down to two misses by Khris Middleton at the endgame that helped the Sixers seal the win. Add Harden to that equation and this matchup becomes even more interesting than just an Embiid versus Antetokounmpo duel.
Pelicans vs. Trail Blazers: Mar. 31, 10:00 AM on NBA League Pass
What a time to be a New Orleans Pelicans fan. Good things are happening to this team, once far from being a playoff contender. Fast forward to now and the Pelicans are ninth in the Western Conference, ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers. They’ve gotten Brandon Ingram back after missing 10 games. Jonas Valanciunas is healthy. CJ McCollum is on fire. Perfect timing for him to go back to Portland since the trade.
McCollum has been averaging career-highs in points per game (26), rebounds (5), assists (7), and field goal percentage (50.5%) as a Pelican. He looks to be in the right place. On the other side of the fence, it’s not looking too good. The Blazers are 12th in the West and have lost their stars to injuries. McCollum might as well suit up for the Blazers for old time’s sake, just for this game, just to help his former team out. They’re going to desperately need it against a hot New Orleans team.
Nets vs. Bucks: Apr. 1, 7:30 AM on NBA League Pass
It would be very hard to talk about a Brooklyn Nets-Milwaukee Bucks matchup and not make a reference to the length of Kevin Durant’s foot. That’s always going to be there. Unless the Bucks definitively separate themselves from the Nets in terms of competition. Looking at the standings, it makes sense. The Bucks have always hovered around the top three in the East all season long while the Nets kept slipping and slipping.
The Nets are now hanging on at ninth in the East, but things may be looking up now that Kyrie Irving has his home games back. Sure, the Nets lost in Irving’s homecourt debut, but that was against the Charlotte Hornets, a team that is also going all-in on this final stretch to the playoffs. The Nets have only lost three of their last 10. They’ll have one more chance to check how they fare against the defending champs–before the real battle begins in the playoffs.
Suns vs. Grizzlies: Apr. 2, 8:00 AM on NBA League Pass
The Phoenix Suns have been hot the entire season, we all know that by now. They’ve lost Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton to injuries in stretches, but they survived. They’ve also lost Chris Paul to an injury for a minute there, but they thrived. Now, Chris Paul has returned, fully healed and rested, and it felt like the Suns didn’t miss him much. Phoenix was the first team to clinch the playoffs and has the best record in the league with 61 wins and only 14 losses.
While the Suns are melting opponents left and right, another team has been scorching hot the entire season, but perhaps with less fanfare. Enter the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have won 52 games already with still a couple of games left on the calendar. That’s an outstanding feat by this talented Grizzlies squad that had to go through the play-in last year to make it through the postseason. This season, they’re a team that’s no longer relying on grit alone. They’re a legitimate contender with sharpened weapons coming from all angles.
Ja Morant has missed a couple of their games recently due to knee problems, but in his place is the stellar play of Desmond Bane. If Morant misses more time, the sophomore Bane will get the accelerated growth he needs to get to the next level. If he does it against the Suns, he might as well be there already.