The NBA takes the night off during the NCAA championship game, but with just nine days left in the regular season, it's a sprint to the finish from here on out. The Clippers don't play until tomorrow night, but there's plenty of action in the NBA tonight, with plenty on the line.
Cleveland at Indiana, 4:00 PM
Philadelphia at Brooklyn, 4:30 PM
Washington at New York, 4:30 PM
Milwaukee at Miami, 4:30 PM
Toronto at Chicago, 5:00 PM
Charlotte at Memphis, 5:00 PM
Phoenix at Houston, 5:00 PM, NBA-TV
Oklahoma City at Utah, 6:00 PM
New Orleans at LA Lakers, 7:30 PM, NBA-TV, Time Warner Sports
Minnesota at Golden State, 7:30 PM
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of suspense in the 3-4-5 race in the West tonight. The Clippers and Nuggets have the night off, while the Grizzlies are hosting the worst team in the league, the Charlotte Bobcats. So by the end of the evening, the Clippers will likely be a game and a half behind the Grizz, but the good news is that this is Memphis' last free pass on their remaining schedule.
There are really four different races still going on in the West: the race for first between Oklahoma City and San Antonio, the 3-4-5 race with the Clippers, Grizzlies and Nuggets, the 6-7 race between Golden State and Houston and the race for the final playoff spot between the Jazz and the Lakers. It's mathematically possible that teams could jump into another race there, and Dallas isn't officially eliminated yet, but for all intents and purposes, those are the groupings. However, those races are all incredibly close, with no single team locked into a likely playoff spot with just five games remaining.
When the Thunder visit Utah tonight, the outcome will impact two of the closest races. Utah is a very good home team and desperately needs the win to maintain their hold on the eighth spot, especially considering that the Lakers are hosting the Hornets tonight. However, if the Thunder lose, they drop two games in the loss column behind the Spurs, which would just about settle the race for the top spot.
Golden State has the toughest remaining schedule of any Western Conference playoff team, but tonight they have a relatively easy one hosting the Timberwolves. Houston also has an easy one, hosting the Suns, so that race should stay pretty much where it is for one more night, with the Warriors one game up.
In the East things are a little more settled. The top nine teams in the West are all within a game of a rival -- with the trailing team owning the tie-breaker in most cases. In the East, only the relatively insignificant 6-7 race between Atlanta and Boston is currently within a game, and the eight playoff teams have already been decided. The race to get out of the eighth spot (and thus avoid Miami in the opening round) looked interesting for a bit, but with Milwaukee facing the Heat in Miami tonight, Boston can go three games up in the loss column with just five games left, which would more or less lock the Bucks into the eighth spot.