Heading into he final eight days of the season, all five teams in he southwest division hold playoff spots, four those teams have clinched a berth, but none of the teams know where they’ll finish. And that’s just in the division, let alone the playoff standings.
Last night: Pelicans 103, Warriors 100; Spurs 113, Thunder 88; Clippers 105, Lakers 100
The only surprise of the night came in New Orleans, as the Pelicans made the plays down the stretch and the Warriors didn’t. Steph Curry missed an open runner in the lane with under ten seconds left, then rattled out a 3-point attempt just before the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime. Although, the referees botched the call on that play, as I imagine will be reflected in the league’s Last Two Minute report released on Wednesday. Curry was defended by Dante Cunningham as he jumped up to attempt the long shot. There was minimal contact and no whistle (which in my opinion was correctly officiated), but after jumping and realizing there was no chance to make the shot, Curry merely let go of the ball. Then landed on his feet, paused, picked up the bouncing ball and fired up the shot. That should have been whistled for a travel, but wasn’t. See below.
Moments before that with the score tied at 100, Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans tripped himself up at midcourt, as he was losing the ball and headed down to the floor, Andre Iguodala reached in and caught him lightly on the knee. Iguodala was whistled for a foul and Evans sank one of two free throws.
Steph Curry still had another good game with 25 points on 9-18 shooting, including 5-8 on 3-pointers to go with nine assists. But fellow splash brother Klay Thompson was off, way off, scoring just seven points on 2-10 shooting and had four turnovers. Anthony Davis turned in a typical strong game with 29 points, ten rebounds, four blocks and two steals. He did all that, without a single turnover in over 40 minutes of play.
That win pushed the Pelicans ahead of the Thunder for the eighth spot in the west, since the Thunder were manhandled by the Spurs for the second time during the Spurs eight-game winning streak. Oklahoma City scored just 10 points in the first quarter, made just 4-of-21 shots and had six turnovers. The Thunder have lost five of six, were never in the game with the Spurs and do not hold the tiebreaker with the Pelicans. While the Thunder have a seemingly easier schedule remaining, they are playing terribly, while the Pelicans just knocked off the best team in the NBA. Russell Westbrook scored only 17 points and did not play in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.
For the second time in three nights, the Clippers handled the Lakers, although this time the Lakers put up a fight. J.J. Redick and Blake Griffin each had 27 points and the Clippers got Jamal Crawford back after he missed the last 17 games with a calf injury. He scored four points in roughly 19 minutes. The Clippers could still finish as high as the number two seed.
Tonight: Pelicans at Grizzlies; Rockets at Spurs; Suns at Mavericks; Timberwolves at Blazers
New Orleans will try to ride that wave of emotions to Memphis as they look to claim the season series against the Grizzlies. Memphis beat New Orleans by 18 at home in the first week of the season, but the Pelicans won both games in New Orleans. Memphis and Houston, along with San Antonio are still in the race for the division crown, which could come down to division record. Memphis is 8-7 with this being their final division game. Houston is 7-6 with two games remaining with the Spurs and one with the Pelicans. San Antonio is 6-7 with the two games against Houston and one with New Orleans remaining.
The Rockets and Spurs have not played since just after Christmas with the Spurs winning 110-106. Houston got a strong game from Dwight Howard (24 points and 17 rebounds), but had a season-worst 25 turnovers. Howard is averaging 28 points and 16.5 rebounds, while shooting 74 percent in two games against San Antonio. He remains on a minutes limit, however, and is expected to play around 25 minutes. The teams will meet again in Houston on Friday night. The importance of these games is fairly obvious. A sweep by either team could put that team in position to win the division. Houston already controls their own destiny. If the Spurs win out they could win the division, although they would need the Grizzlies to lose to the Pelicans tonight, to allow for the Spurs to potentially win that division tiebreaker, because if the teams remaining tied and have the same division record, the Grizzlies would claim the division title based on better conference record. I know – not confusing at all.
The Mavericks had the night off on Tuesday, but finally clinched a playoff berth with the loss by the Thunder. They have nearly clinched the seventh seed, their magic number to do that is one. They are hoping to get Chandler Parson (knee) and Rajon Rondo (knee) back healthy before the playoffs as well. Parsons is listed as doubtful, while Rondo is listed as probable to play against the Suns.
The Suns have not been eliminated from the playoffs yet, but their final five games of the season are by far the hardest in the entire league. The five-game closing stretch began last night with a 96-69 drubbing in Atlanta. Their next three games, all on the road, are against Dallas, New Orleans and San Antonio. They then finish at home against the Clippers. If they miraculously sweep their final four games, they’ll have 43 wins. That’s just one more win than both the Thunder and Pelicans already have.
The Blazers are expected to have both starting forwards back for their game against the Timberwolves. LaMarcus Aldridge (thumb) and Nicolas Batum (back) sat out their loss at Brooklyn on Monday night. The Wolves are in a cat fight with the Knicks for the league’s worst record and with it the most chances in the lottery to land the top selection. Minnesota has lost seven straight and 14 of 16, while the Knicks just snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over the Sixers on Sunday. The remaining schedule for the 15-win Knicks and the 16-win Timberwolves:
NYK (15-62) – vs IND, vs MIL, at ORL, at ATL, vs DET
MIN (16-61) – at POR, at LAL, at GSW, vs NO, vs OKC
Here’s the look at the west standings and the remaining schedule. Click the graphic to enlarge.
Click here for tiebreaking procedures
NBA Vine of the Night – The Heat are trying to secure a playoff spot and with execution like this, they just might get it. Or with luck. (h/t @Ananth Pandian)
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