Tier 6: Head and shoulders above the rest
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Previous Ranking: 1
Bubble record: 2-3
The Bucks might be a little bored. With the top seed in the East locked up, they’ve been coasting in the bubble.
This is a good example of why you can’t just look at the stat sheets and judge a team. That loss to Brooklyn is ugly on paper. But without its two best players in the second half, the Bucks still made it close.
Giannis Antetokoumpo has been dominant, no surprise there, and Kris Middleton is the perfect compliment. This is a team that depends on the three, yes, but if it’s not falling, those two can bail the Bucks out. There’s no reason to doubt the Bucks’ chances to win the east quite yet.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Previous Ranking: 2
Bubble record: 3-2
The Clips are two lucky bounces away from being 5-0 in the bubble. And the scary thing is, they’re still without Montrezl Harrell, who is expected to return to action next week.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are one of the top duos in the league. When they’re on, they’re unstoppable. But what’s really shone for LA is its’ depth. This team is stacked with excellent, feisty defenders that can keep them in any game even when the shots aren’t falling.
The Clippers might not dominate any team in a playoff series. They aren’t going to shoot a team out the gym. They’re just not built like that. But LA is built to be tough defensively. If you want to score on the Clippers, you’re going to have to earn it, like Devin Booker’s buzzer beater.
And guess what? 9-time-out-of-10, that shot isn’t falling. As it stands right now, the Clippers are the favorites out west, and take the top spot in this week’s rankings.