NBA Update: Timberwolves get No. 1 pick, playoff action heats up
Damien Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers have been the story of the NBA bubble, and while he's now battling a dislocated finger, his team is tied 1-1 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Photo Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports.
Thursday's NBA action saw the Minnesota Timberwolves awarded the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NBA Draft through the lottery, as the conference favorites evened up their series in the bubble playoffs, in which 4 of the 8 series are tied at 1 apiece.
After the Boston Celtics were awarded the Memphis Grizzlies' selection at No. 14 due to previous trade conditions, the next five picks went mainly according to the odds: New Orleans Pelicans, Sacremento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and the Washington Wizards at No. 9.
However, the first surprise came with the Knicks falling to the No. 8 pick, meaning the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets (odds-on favorites to get 8 and 9 picks) had vaulted into the top four.
The Detroit Pistons were followed by the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers (the two teams to drop out of the top four).
The Bulls were given the No. 4 pick and were followed by the Hornets and Golden State Warriors, which meant the Timberwolves were awarded the No. 1 overall pick, their first since selecting Karl Anthony Towns in 2015.
With the draft order revealed, a full first-round mock draft will be coming soon, but for now, let's take a look at what is happening in the playoff bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Now, to the bubble playoffs, where 1 seeds aren't guaranteed to win, 4/5 match-ups have generally been the least competitive and the Celtics and Toronto Raptors seem to be locked-in on a collision course in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Currently, the series stand like this in the East: Bucks (1)-Magic (8) tied at 1, Raptors (2) lead Brooklyn Nets (7) 2-0, Celtics (3) lead Philadelphia 76ers (6) 2-0, and the Miami Heat (5) lead the Indiana Pacers 2-0.
In the West, the Lakers (1) and Trail Blazers (8) are tied at 1, as are the Los Angeles Clippers (2) and Dallas Mavericks (7), and the Denver Nuggets (3) and Utah Jazz (6), while the Houston Rockets (4) lead the Oklahoma City Thunder (5) 2-0.
The biggest storyline thus far is how both the No. 8 seeds stole Game 1 from the conference favorites, the first time this has happened since 2003. In the second games of both series, things returned to form, but the Bucks and Lakers are aware to the threat posed by the Magic and Trail Blazers.
Intrigue has been more evident in the Western Conference, with three of the four series tied at 1 and the other requiring a late rally by the Rockets to take Game 2. In the East, the Raptors and Celtics are running away with their series, and the Heat look likely to get past the Pacers.
While Lakers-Blazers and Clippers-Mavericks have garnered more attention, the battle between Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic's Nuggets, and Donovan Mitchell's Jazz has the potential to be a 7-game classic, with the first game going to overtime and the second showing off the exciting play of Mitchell, who has poured in 87 points in the first two games.
Excitement and intrigue should be in full supply as crunch time arrives in the first round of these unique NBA playoffs, and stars like Joel Embiid (76ers), T.J. Warren (Pacers), and Chris Paul (Thunder) need to step up now before they go down 3-0.