East NBA playoff picture: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury overshadows key Bucks-Magic battle

With Giannis Antetokounmpo injured, the Bucks face some tough tasks ahead of the playoffs.

The biggest news across the league that will 100 percent influence the NBA playoff picture surrounds Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo going down on Tuesday night with a non-contact left calf injury. The Bucks, who are barely clinging to the 2-seed in the East, are now set to be without their leader in what has become their most important stretch of the season. While they did take down the Boston Celtics, the Bucks will now play their second game in as many nights with the Orlando Magic coming to town on Wednesday.

In regards to Giannis’ injury, there are a lot of unknowns right now. The good news is that Antetokounmpo did not suffer any sort of Achilles injury, as his MRI results showed a left calf strain. His return to play is questionable right now, and based on his response to treatment over the next few days. It is likely that the Bucks will keep him sidelined through the remainder of the regular season.

While Giannis’ injury presents the Bucks’ secondary talents with an opportunity to step up in a big moment of the season, this is not the news Milwaukee wants to deal with. After losing in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Bucks are once again going to be thrown under the microscope entering the playoffs, regardless of the news surrounding Antetokounmpo. Now, a game against the Magic on Wednesday could be very telling as to what the immediate future holds for the Bucks pertaining to the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The Magic will enter Wednesday night’s game in Milwaukee after a loss to the Houston Rockets. Without Franz Wagner, who missed this game due to an ankle sprain, Orlando’s offense was very stagnant at times. Should Wagner miss his second straight game, the Magic will need to find other sturdy contributors outside of All-Star Paolo Banchero.

A loss on Tuesday to a team outside of the NBA playoff picture was definitely a setback for the Magic. Then again, this opportunity on Wednesday night to pick up a win over the Bucks may just be their golden ticket. Milwaukee and Orlando are set to face one another twice over their final three games this week, setting the stage for one of these teams to claim the 2-seed in the East via a potential tiebreaker. Entering the day, the Magic are two full games behind the Bucks in the standings, and one game behind the New York Knicks for the No. 3 seed.

No Giannis means it is Dame Time in Milwaukee. However, inconsistency and the dark cloud of Antetokounmpo’s injury loom large over the heads of the Bucks. The NBA standings will change on Wednesday night as a result of what happens between the Bucks and Magic.

Grizzlies vs. Cavaliers (7:00 PM ET)

If there is one team in the Eastern Conference that needs a win, it is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nothing has gone right for the Cavs in their recent stretch of games, as they have posted a 3-8 record over their last 11 games, losing three consecutive games entering Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Cleveland has suddenly become a key talking point in the East for all the wrong reasons given their drop in the standings, as head coach JB Bickerstaff may be on the hot seat. Of course, this also means rumors pertaining to Donovan Mitchell’s future will become louder. The Cavs must get back on track with a win over Memphis. Otherwise, they will be in danger of falling to the 6-seed in the NBA playoff picture.

The Cavs are currently tied for the 4-seed in the East with the Magic, and lead the No. 6 Indiana Pacers by a half-game.
A win over the Grizzlies, plus a loss by the Magic, moves Cleveland into sole possession of the 4-seed in the conference.

A loss to the Grizzlies moves the Cavs down to the 6-seed in the East, as the Pacers currently own the tiebreaker between the two teams.

Mavericks vs. Heat (7:30 PM ET)

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, right, greets center Bam Adebayo during ceremonies before a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Kaseya Center. Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Heat faced a scare against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night as Dejounte Murray took them to double-overtime. Ultimately, the Heat survived 117-111, but they will now have to turn their focus to the hottest team in the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have been cooking as of late, leading the Mavs to a 15-2 record over their last 17 games. Dallas holds the No. 5 seed in the West,and still has an outside chance of moving up to claim home-court advantage in a first-round series. Miami would like to pick up another win in order to keep their hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament alive.

Miami is locked into any play-in game with a loss AND wins by Orlando and Cleveland.
The Heat are a half-game behind the No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers in the standings.
A win against Dallas moves the Heat into a tie for the 7-seed with the Sixers. Philadelphia currently occupies the tiebreaker.

A loss to Dallas puts Miami in a position where they would almost certainly be the 8-seed entering the play-in tournament.

Hornets vs. Hawks (7:30 PM ET)

Fresh off their loss to the Heat on Tuesday, the Hawks may be getting reinforcements against the Charlotte Hornets. All-Star point guard Trae Young, who had finger surgery in February to address a torn ligament, could make his return to the court on Wednesday night after missing 23 straight games. Should this occur, the Hawks will have their All-Star duo of Young and Dejounte Murray paired up to possibly make one final push for the playoffs. There has been a lot of discussion about the Hawks ripping apart their roster in the offseason, which is why there is a little extra motivation for this group right now. A win over the Charlotte Hornets can still keep their hopes of claiming the 9-seed over the Chicago Bulls alive.

Magic vs. Bucks (8:00 PM ET)

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) grabs his leg in the third quarter and left game against the Boston Celtics with an injury at Fiserv Forum.Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The best game in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night features the Magic hitting the road to take on the Bucks. Aside from the fact that both teams are playing their second game in as many nights, the headline for this matchup will be the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who suffered a non-contact left calf injury in the team’s 104-91 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. Without Giannis, the Bucks will lean on Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, and Bobby Portis to lead the charge. Still, there is no clarity on what the immediate future holds for Milwaukee, especially in the NBA playoff picture. The 2-seed in the East is still very much up for grabs, especially if the Magic can pull off a road upset.

Milwaukee clinches the Central Division title with a win AND a Cleveland loss.
Orlando clinches a playoff spot with a win AND losses by Cleveland and Miami.
The Magic can clinch the Southeast Division title with a win AND a Miami loss.
The Bucks lead the No. 3 Knicks by one game for the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
A win over the Magic inches the Bucks closer to clinching the No. 2 seed.
A loss to the Magic puts the Bucks within a half-game of falling out of the 2-seed in the East.
A win over the Bucks moves the Magic within a game of the No. 2 Bucks.
A loss to Milwaukee and a loss by Cleveland moves Orlando into a three-way tie with the Cavs and Pacers for the 4-seed.
The Magic will fall to the 5-seed in the East with a loss and a win by the Cavs.

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