Down to Final Four

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star
Down to Final Four
First big fish to fall was Milwaukee, No. 3 in the East.
STAR / File

Out of 30 teams to start the season, only four are left standing in the NBA playoffs with five higher seeds eliminated in upsets. There were 16 teams that made it to the playoffs, excluding the four bundled out in the play-ins. The only contender that has cruised in the post-season is Boston after ousting Miami, 4-1, in the first round and Cleveland, 4-1 in the second. The Celtics lost Game 2 in both series at home then won twice on the road to close out at the TD Garden in similar finishes.

First big fish to fall was Milwaukee, No. 3 in the East. With Giannis Antetokounmpo out, the Bucks were thrashed by No. 6 Indiana in six. Then came the LA Clippers, No. 4 in the West. Kawhi Leonard sat out the last eight games of the regular season, missed the first contest in the playoffs, returned to contribute sub-par numbers in two outings that the Clippers lost then skipped the last three as Dallas took the series in six.

The Knicks, No. 2 in the East, were stunned by Indiana in seven in the second round. Like Milwaukee and the Clippers, injuries bogged down New York. Julius Randle missed the entire playoffs, Mitchell Robinson was out in the last six games of the Pacers series, Josh Hart played in Game Seven with an abdominal strain, Jalen Brunson fractured his hand late in the third quarter and never went back also in Game Seven and OG Anunoby logged only five minutes in the clincher. Then, West top seed Oklahoma City was upset by Dallas in six and defending champion Denver, No. 2 in the West was scuttled by No. 3 Minnesota in seven.

So far, five series were settled on the road, indicating that the homecourt advantage may be a diminishing factor. Three series went the distance while two were sweeps. Of 68 playoff games so far, 27 were won on the road or a 40 percent rate.

Dallas has been the surprise giant-killer, defeating higher seeds LA Clippers and Oklahoma City. Minnesota also pulled off an upset in dethroning Denver, closing out the series on the road. The Wolves came back from 20 down to hold the Nuggets to 37 in the second half while scoring 60 in a fiery windup. Indiana also finished off New York on the road before a downcast Madison Square Garden crowd. From the looks of things, Boston will make it to the Finals with Minnesota, the NBA’s No. 1 defensive team.

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