Tuesday, May 24, 2022

NBA playoff updates: Bucks, Celtics clinch spots; Knicks officially eliminated

We’re in the final week of the 2021-22 NBA regular season, and teams are punching their tickets into the postseason — and lottery. With just a handful of games remaining for each franchise, here’s a quick rundown of everything that happened from a playoff standpoint to get you all caught up. 

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Bucks clinch a playoff berth

The Milwaukee Bucks won another thriller on Thursday, this time outlasting the Brooklyn Nets in overtime, 120-119. Giannis Antetokounmpo once again led the way, finishing with 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. He also hit a game-tying 3-pointer late in regulation, and two game-winning free throws in the closing seconds of overtime. 

With that win and the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Bucks officially clinched a playoff berth and at least a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference. This will be the sixth straight postseason appearance for the defending champions, which is the second-longest streak in franchise history. 

Celtics clinch a playoff berth

After a dominant couple of months, during which they surged up the standings and briefly occupied first place in the East, the Boston Celtics have hit some adversity in recent days. Key big man Robert Williams III suffered a torn meniscus and will be out at least 4-6 weeks following surgery, and they’ve lost consecutive games for the first time since mid-January.

On Thursday, though, they got some good news. While they were idle, they officially clinched a playoff berth thanks to the Cavaliers’ loss to the Hawks. This will be the seventh straight playoff appearance for the Celtics, which is their longest streak since they went to the postseason 14 straight times from 1980-1993. 

Knicks eliminated

The New York Knicks took the NBA by storm last season, finishing fourth in the East for their first playoff appearance since 2013. And though they crashed out in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, the future seemed pretty exciting. Julius Randle won Most Improved Player, they had some bright young talent in RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley and head coach Tom Thibodeau had built an elite defense. 

All of it came crashing down this season. The team’s offseason moves did not pan out, and both Randle and the defense took major steps back. The writing has been on the wall since a brutal 3-17 stretch in January and February, and now it is official: with the Hawks’ win over the Cavaliers, the Knicks have been eliminated from playoff contention. From fourth in the East to failing to even make the play-in tournament. Quite a disappointing turn of events. 

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Wizards eliminated

After making a number of major changes this offseason, including trading Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Wizards got off to a tremendous start. They were playing great defense, beating some elite teams and had a real positive energy about them. Through the first month of the regular season, they were 10-3 and in first place in the East.

Unfortunately, that was the high point of their season. They lost 12 of their next 17 games and were never able to get back on track. There were rumors of infighting, Bradley Beal needed season-ending surgery and they eventually blew things up at the trade deadline. Now, after the Hawks’ win over the Cavs, they are officially out of the playoff race. 

Clippers locked into play-in spot

Things have not gone to plan for the Los Angeles Clippers this season. Already without Kawhi Leonard, who suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs last season, they then lost Paul George to an elbow injury for three months. While they deserve a lot of credit for staying afloat without their two stars, and recently got George back, they are still under .500 and are heading to the play-in tournament. 

That was officially confirmed on Thursday when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Utah Jazz. The Clippers will almost certainly finish in the No. 8 spot, which means they will be on the road for the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup. If they win that game, they will get the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. If they lose they will then host the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup. The winner of that game will get the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. 

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