This NBA season, the Western Conference was a brutal battle of incredibly talented teams trading haymakers to see who will represent the conference in the NBA Finals. For the East, all eyes were turned to the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. While the Bucks may have won the most games over the regular season, the newest NBA injury could spell doom.
The Newest NBA Injury
In the opening game against the Miami Heat, Milwaukee superstar and MVP candidate Giannis Antetokumpo collided with Heat forward Kevin Love as he drove to the basket in the first quarter. The two players slammed into one another, with Love called for a blocking foul.
After hitting his free throws and playing a couple more minutes, Antetokumpo left the court clearly in some pain. The Bucks superstar would briefly check in during the second quarter, trying to stretch his back before leaving the game just over a minute later.
Antetokumpo made his way to the locker room as the team started to test the injury. The Greek Freak never returned to the game and the 1 seeded Bucks dropped the game. With Giannis looking to be truly questionable to play over the remainder of the series, the Eastern Conference playoff race has been fully upended.
Boston and Philly
The two teams to benefit the most from Giannis’ injury are the Celtics and the 76ers. As the two and three seeds, they instantly become the favorites to come out of the East. The Celtics, led by star Jayson Tatum won their first game comfortably against the Atlanta Hawks. The 2022 Conference Winners should make quick work of an overwhelmed Atlanta team.
For the 76ers, Doc Rivers will look to lead his own duo of MVP front runner Joel Embiid and James Harden past the second round of the NBA Playoffs, something that has been pretty difficult for Rivers and Philadelphia. They quickly dismantled the Brooklyn Nets in their first game.
Now with Giannis either missing time or playing hurt, the probable second round match-up of Boston and Philly could serve as the Eastern Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, Miami now has to instantly like their chances of knocking out the heavily favored Bucks. It’s only been three years since the Heat lost the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers and with star Jimmy Butler leading the way, can still be a difficult out.
Unfortunately for Miami, they did lose guard Tyler Herro to a broken right hand. He is expected to miss the next game and potentially the rest of the series.
For teams like the Hawks and Nets, they’ll just try to get past this round before setting their sights elsewhere. For the matchup between the Knicks and Cavaliers, the two teams immediately have a somewhat clearer path to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Barring an upset, the winner of the matchup will face either Miami or Milwaukee in the second round. The Knicks did win the opener 101-97.
With the Giannis injury, the Eastern Conference race suddenly just got a lot more interesting.