1. Miami travels to Cleveland and loses, 102-90, losing a half-game to idle Boston and falling to third place.
1. Oklahoma City defeats visiting Golden State, 115-114 in overtime, keeping pace with Dallas for the third seed while almost guaranteeing first-round home-court advantage.
2. Houston is victorious over host Toronto, 112-87, keeping its playoff chances alive and well, while Phoenix dropped a must-win game at Sacramento, 116-113.
1. Orlando and Atlanta match wits tonight in what is sure to be a first-round playoff preview. Although the Hawks hold a 2-1 series advantage this season, the teams have not met since December. Atlanta must prove they can compete with Orlando, or they can expect a repeat of last year’s postseason sweep in the conference semifinals at the hands of the Magic.
2. New York hosts little brother New Jersey in a game that can go a long way toward helping the Knicks gain some momentum in time for the playoffs.
3. Chicago takes on host Minnesota. A victory over the outmanned Timberwolves can erase the memories of last game’s defeat to Philadelphia, while adding a half-game to its lead over Boston.
1. New Orleans hosts Portland in a game between the 6 and 7 seeds. While every series in the west will be hotly contested, the Hornets would be well-served to avoid the Lakers at all costs. Portland will have its hands full against either Los Angeles or Dallas, or maybe Oklahoma City, but New Orleans stands no chance against the Lakers.
2. Houston heads east to Philadelphia in a game featuring two of the best ‘teams’ in the league. Philadelphia is a lock to make the playoffs, but Houston must continue its hot streak (7-3 last 10) just to have the honor of playing San Antonio in the first round. It should not surprise anyone if either of these teams sneaks into the conference semis after upsetting a higher seed in the opening round.
3. Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Denver take the floor against inferior teams while each hopes to keep pace with the field. The crowded west is similar to a pulsating heart, an amoeba like substance whose parts continuously move back and forth and sideways until the final days of the season, at which point we will be able to dissect the final product. All we know right now is who will have home-court during the first round, everything else is up for debate.
1. Miami experienced its worst loss of the season last night, succumbing to the energized Cavaliers in Cleveland while failing to gain ground on idle Boston and Chicago atop the standings. The Heat had an opportunity the rest of the season to possibly catch the Bulls and definitely pass the Celts. The good news for Miami is they are equally adept at winning, home or away, so home-court advantage in the playoffs is not too much of a factor. The bad news is that they lost to Cleveland.
2. While the top teams in the east have suffered losses each time out, the west’s best, save the injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs, are on fire. Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Denver each sport winning streaks of at least three games, with the Lakers winning seven straight. The horses have seemingly turned the final corner and hit their stride down the stretch.
3. The Final Four will capture the attention of hoops fans across the country, if not the globe. Four seems to be a magic number. The top four seeds in each conference are legitimate threats to make this year’s Finals. This has not been true for some time, meaning this summer’s playoffs are sure to be a treat. Enjoy.