With the way the Boston Celtics have played this season, it feels like they are in complete control in the Eastern Conference.
But in actuality, they barely have any breathing room atop the standings at the moment.
Despite the Celtics owning an NBA-best 42-17 record, the Milwaukee Bucks are nipping at their heels, just a half-game behind Boston for the top spot in the East. But the Celtics may have caught somewhat of a break Monday to help them gain a little more separation from the Bucks.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sprained his wrist just prior to the All-Star break, underwent further testing on the injured area and avoided any major damage. Charania noted Antetokounmpo could miss some upcoming games.
With Antetokounmpo most likely sidelined coming out of the break, even if it’s just for a game or two or possibly longer, it could bring a couple more losses to the Bucks, who have won 12 straight games with Antetokounmpo being their leading scorer in nine of those contest. A few setbacks for Milwaukee certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Celtics, allowing them to solidify their spot in first place in the conference if they can stick to their winning ways.
NBA teams also tend to be ultra-cautious with their superstars, meaning the Bucks might prioritize Antetokounmpo’s health and give him additional rest rather than trying to overcome the Celtics in the regular season.
The two teams proved last year in their Eastern Conference semifinals series that home-court advantage does carry some weight as the Celtics used it to run away with a Game 7 victory at TD Garden.
And with Antetokounmpo not at 100%, the Celtics might have that benefit again this season if they meet the Bucks in the playoffs.