And then there were four!
Business has picked up in the NBA playoffs as four remaining teams are set to do battle to earn a spot in the NBA Finals.
This season will culminate in a legacy-defining first championship for one of these players:10-time All-NBA guard Chris Paul, back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, seven-time all-star Paul George or 22-year-old Trae Young.
The NBA draft lottery took place Tuesday evening as well, and we will discuss the big winners and losers.
This is your weekly NBA wrap-up, let’s check-in on our two conference finals matchups.
Clippers miss opportunities, go down 2-0
The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers wasted no time getting familiar with each other.
The Clippers won the regular season series between the division rivals 2-1, but have lost both games on the road to begin this series.
While that’s been the formula so far for LA, who lost the first two before closing Dallas out in seven games and Utah in six in the previous rounds, they missed a great chance to take control of this series.
Phoenix has now won nine in a row in the playoffs, a franchise record, and are expecting all-star guard Chris Paul to return for game three on Thursday.
Fellow all-star guard Devin Booker was spectacular in Paul’s absence, posting 40 points with his first ever triple-double in game one.
With the game in the balance late, Booker led the well-rested Suns to victory.
In game two, the Clippers overcame a late deficit and had plans to even the series and steal home-court advantage in the process.
Former MVP candidate Paul George was superb in the closing minute, until he missed a pair of free throws that would’ve given his team a three-point lead with under 10 seconds remaining.
That set the scene for center DeAndre Ayton’s game-winning inbounds alley-oop with 0.9 seconds remaining.
Now, the Clippers have to deal with a rolling Suns team returning to full strength.
Phoenix is on a mission. With no updates on two-time champion Kawhi Leonard, it is very believable that the Suns win game three en route to their second straight sweep.
Los Angeles better get its act together, and fast.
Bucks & Hawks emerge victorious in game 7s
Father’s Day weekend was headlined by a pair of incredible game sevens.
First, the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted two-time champion Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.
Playing every minute for two games straight, Durant was this close to ending the Bucks in regulation.
An iso turnaround 23-footer was cash money, seemingly winning the game and series for Brooklyn.
Durant grimaced after, maybe aware of the fact he was just inches over the three-point line and that he didn’t have much in the tank for overtime.
That was the case in the end and the Bucks prevailed. Down goes the mighty Nets.
Equally momentous, the Atlanta Hawks are flying high after taking down the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
Their blossoming star, Trae Young, was ice cold from the floor through three quarters shooting 2-for-16 from the field entering the fourth before draining a mid-range jumper halfway through the quarter that got him going again.
A 35-foot-bomb with 2:30 remaining put Atlanta up six and the game was wrapped up.
The game-ball belongs to third-year shooting guard Kevin Huerter, aka Red Velvet.
The University of Maryland product had a playoff career-high 27 points to pace the Hawks to victory.
With that, the Eastern Conference Finals are set. These squads are pretty evenly matched, but only one will endure the pressure of the moment.
Watch out for second-year Duke standout Cam Reddish to make a return this series to help out the Hawks.
Otherwise, may the best team win. This series tips off Wednesday, June 23.
What’s next for the Nets & 76ers
The top-two seeds in the East suffered early exits while the fan bases beg the question, what’s next?
Well for Philadelphia, a glaring spotlight is on big guard Ben Simmons.
Soon to be 25-years-old, Simmons has yet to add the missing element to his game that’s hindered his growth.
That element is a scoring mentality. Simmons attempted just three fourth-quarter shots in the entire series, none in the closing four games.
‘The process’ will never reach its potential with a severely limited Simmons.
A plan must be implemented with Simmons, who hinted at changing his shooting hang this offseason.
It may be best to cut ties with his seven-figure contract, though, at this point.
As for Brooklyn, some minor tinkering is in order, but by all accounts they should just run it back and hope for a better bill of health.
Its big three is under contract, rookie Head Coach Steve Nash did an admirable job, and they still took Milwaukee to their limits.
This season ultimately was not a failure, especially with glimpses of what Kevin Durant is still capable of coming off the achilles injury.
Ending a 50-year run, the Detroit Pistons have the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft.
The prize-to-be? It is very likely they will select Cade Cunningham, a six-foot-six point forward from Oklahoma State with elite potential.
Detroit is the biggest winner of the lottery, hands down. They shared the best odds of getting the top pick heading in.
Here is how the top-five shook out.
The Toronto Raptors are another winner. They turned the seventh best odds into the fourth overall pick.
After being displaced for a season in Tampa Bay, the Raptors will return home next season with a high-end lottery selection.
The Golden State Warriors were a winner as well to go with Minnesota as the biggest loser of the lottery.
The Minnesota Timberwolves attached a protected first-round pick in the Andrew Wiggins-D’Angelo Russell trade that would belong to Golden State if it fell out of the top three.
They were projected to get the sixth overall, and it ended up being the seventh which now belongs to the Warriors.
The Warriors will have two lottery picks now, numbers seven and 14.
The Orlando Magic also managed an extra lottery pick via the Chicago Bulls in exchange for center Nikola Vucevic. They occupy the fifth and eighth spots.
Keep it locked for more draft coverage as July 29th approaches.