Now down to three days left in the regular season and still, five of the eight seeds in the western conference are not set. The final spot among the eight team playoff group can finally be claimed today…or it could wait until the final day of the season.
Last night: Pacers 116, Thunder 104; Rockets 121, Pelicans 114; Spurs 107, Suns 91; Mavericks 120, Lakers 106
With the Pelicans and Thunder both losing, the Pelicans magic number was reduced by just one from three to two. So tonight, with both teams back on the court, a Pelicans win paired with a Thunder loss would clinch the eighth seed for New Orleans. New Orleans was in position to grab a win at Houston last night after a fast start, but they could not hold on. New Orleans led 28-22 after the first quarter, holding the Rockets to just five field goals (5-15) in the opening 12 minutes. New Orleans pushed their lead to nine points with a little over eight minutes remaining, then Houston stopped missing. Houston shot 64 percent over the final 32:10 of the game and shot past the Pelicans to start the fourth quarter. The Rockets put a 29-11 run together at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth and the Pelicans could not recover.
James Harden led the run at the end of the third quarter, making all five of his shots and scoring 12 points in the final five minutes of the quarter to the game at 86. Then Harden took his customary rest to start the fourth quarter, but the run continued. Dwight Howard and Corey Brewer combined to make six of seven shots, all right at the basket and the Rockets pushed the lead out to nine points and Houston made just enough free throws during the hack-a-poor-shooting-big period of the game for them their lead to never really be in jeopardy.
Harden scored 30 points for the 35th time and didn’t score at all in the fourth quarter. He is second in the scoring race to Russell Westbrook. Westbrook scored 54 points on Sunday night and his average is 27.892 points per game, while Harden’s is 27.493 points per game.
Despite Westbrook’s 54 points, the Thunder’s woeful defense was porous once again and the lost by 12 at Indiana. Oklahoma City is now 2-7 in the nine games, Westbrook has scored 40 points or more. More importantly moving into pay tonight, the Thunder are set to play the Blazers Monday without Westbrook, since he picked up a technical foul in Sunday’s game, his 16th on the season, which comes with an automatic one-game suspension. But the league has already rescinded one of his technicals earlier this season and certainly could do the same with this one. Take a look at how he drew the ire of referee Ed Molloy for the technical foul.
His technical on March 29th at Phoenix, was earned just 57 seconds into the game and was rescinded by the NBA.
The Spurs won their game over the Suns with little trouble and the Mavericks topped the Lakers easily, while continuing to rest Chandler Parsons sore knee. The only thing interesting about the Mavericks remaining two games is they could still match Portland with a 51-31 record. While that would have no bearing on playoff seedings, as both the Blazers and Mavericks are locked in at the four and seven seed respectively. It would mean the Blazers would have a better record than only one western conference playoff team, yet would draw a top four seed since they won their division. That’s a rule that might that might get looked at by the league moving forward.
Tonight: Rockets at Hornets; Pelicans at Timberwolves; Blazers at Thunder; Mavericks at Jazz; Grizzlies at Warriors; Nuggets at Clippers
Only three spots are set out west – Golden State is the one seed, Portland is the four seed and Dallas is the seven seed. The four teams fighting for the 2, 3, 5 and 6 seeds all have 26 losses. If all four teams end the season tied at 56-26, then San Antonio gets the 2 seed, the Clippers would be third, Grizzlies fifth and Houston would be sixth. San Antonio wins a three-team tiebreaker for the Southwest division and wins a tiebreaker with Houston. But loses a tiebreaker with just Memphis, while Memphis would win a tiebreaker over the Rockets. Houston also loses the tiebreaker to the Clippers. Put simply, for the Rockets to not be the six seed, they need a better record than somebody among these four teams.
Memphis is at Golden State tonight, where the Warriors have lost just just two games all season and have won 20 straight games against western conference teams. Memphis snapped the Warriors overall 16-game winning streak back in December in Memphis, but were blown out in their only trip to Golden State a couple two weeks ago. Memphis also lists Mike Conley (foot), Marc Gasol (ankle) and Jeff Green (back) were all listed as questionable on Sunday for this game tonight. Tony Allen (hamstring) is also not with team as he recovers from injury.
While it’s not a given with still a few games left to play, the odds are that if the Grizzlies lose this game at Golden State, they will be the 6th seed and open their playoff series on the road.
Houston goes to Charlotte to face a fading Hornets team on a four-game losing streak. They’ve also lost their last three games by 18, 24 and last night by 39 points. The Clippers face the Nuggets, who they just crushed a little over a week ago, though the team’s split two close games months ago earlier this season.
Here’s the look at the west standings and the remaining schedule. Click the graphic to enlarge.
Click here for tiebreaking procedures
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