1. Atlanta beats visiting Orlando, 85-82, in a preview of a very probable first-round playoff match-up.
2. New York beats host New Jersey, 120-116, winning its second straight after dropping 10 of 11.
3. Chicago travels to Minnesota and routs the Timberwolves, 108-91, while adding a half-game to its conference lead over idle Boston.
1. Oklahoma City easily defeats Phoenix, 116-98, to win their fifth straight while all but eliminating the Suns’ playoff hopes.
2. Dallas outlasts host Los Angeles Clippers, 106-100, while keeping pace with second-place Los Angeles Lakers.
3. Houston loses to host Philadelphia, 108-97, dropping the Rockets three games behind victorious Memphis for the final playoff position.
1. Boston visits San Antonio in a game that each team should treat as a Finals preview. Both championship teams enter the contest with identical 5-5 records through their last 10 games. While San Antonio is battling the injury bug, Boston has yet to find traction after trading away their center(piece), Kendrick Perkins, to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green. In either case, a win tonight will be a welcome sight for sore legs.
2. Los Angeles hosts Dallas in a contest that could determine which of these two teams earns home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs, a series in which these same teams should meet again. Add to it the fact that both are riding extended winning streaks (L.A.-7 in a row, Dallas-5 in row) and you have the makings of a playoff atmosphere. Exciting, it is.
1. The Bulls have only the Celtics to worry about in their pursuit of home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami will end up second or third in the east. Boston, however disappointing recently, can regain its edge while recording a significant late-season statement by defeating the depleted Spurs. A loss, on the other hand, may spur a furious run by the Heat to gain the second seed and home-court in a probable second round match-up against the Celts.
2. Although San Antonio sits atop the league standings, its recent swoon only strengthens the detractors who contend that the Spurs cannot rely on its current core to win another championship. Considering the teams right behind them, they may be correct in their assumptions. Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, AND Denver are in the middle of serious late-season runs, the profits of which will be evident when the real season starts and the strengthened chemistry and confidence carries each team during the grueling grind, also known as the first round of the Western Conference.
3. For the second straight game, the Heat have encountered extended scuffling fisticuffs versus cellar dwelling teams who considered their meeting with Miami as Game 7 of the Finals. John Wall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas exchanged contact information with each other-Big Z with a well-concealed veteran elbow or two, and Wall with a similarly concealed hook to the ribs. Two nights ago, Ryan Hollins from Cleveland and Dwyane Wade invited each other to their respective mansions for Easter, I imagine. The Heat have been experiencing firsts all season, obviously. Theses recent pleasantries are exactly what Miami should expect come playoff time, and the Heat should be well-prepared. Not to retaliate, but to do the exact opposite, retreat. Any first-round opponent would be well-served to bait Miami’s trio into a possible melee that could see one of the Big Treat suspended for a game. Heat-Knicks ’97?