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Western Conference Playoff Thread - Another Cupcake for Memphis

Mar 22, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Raymond Felton (5) drives past Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-US PRESSWIRE
Mar 22, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Raymond Felton (5) drives past Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-US PRESSWIRE

Fun day for you fearless leader, with no basketball at all until just now (unless you count talking about basketball which I still do a lot and thinking about basketball which, let's face it, I do constantly). But I've neither read nor written about hoops until this moment. ClipperMax, whose rugby team lost it's final two games of the regular season while their three best players were in England playing for the National U-16 side, managed to sneak into the Southern California Youth Rugby U-16 playoffs with a wild card berth and beat number 1 seed Santa Monica today. (As you may have guessed, the horses have returned from overseas.) Then the ClipperWidow and I went to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's talk in Long Beach today. Good times.

But the NBA continues as well.

The Nuggets have already beaten the Suns today, putting Phoenix into a tough spot, despite their big win over the Clippers Thursday. Denver remains a potential first round opponent of the Clippers, should the LAC pass the Lakers in the standings. After San Antonio's blow out win over the Lakers last night, the Clippers and Lakers are once again tied in the loss column, and with the Lakers playing a Sunday matinee, the Clippers could actually take a lead in the Division (by percentage points at any rate) before they play again, should the Lakers fall to the Thunder.

The big one today though is tipping off now -- Portland at Memphis. But with a starting lineup currently featuring Nolan Smith, Hasheem Thabeet and J.J. Hickson, the Blazers are in full blown tank mode. At least they're doing it right, trading actual players for picks at the deadline in a concerted effort to stink this year in the hope that they might stink less in the future. Memphis trailed Charlotte last night for three quarters before winning in the fourth. I'd recommend that you not get your hopes up for this one either. Even if Portland is up early, Memphis will win eventually. When one team wants to win and the other wants to lose, more often than not they both want their wish. Charlotte at least wanted to win, since they're already assured of the worst record in the NBA. Portland still have ground to lose, though not a lot.

[Note by Steve Perrin, 04/21/12 5:35 PM PDT ] I forgot to mention Orlando-Utah. This is really truly inside baseball at this point, but as long as we're obsessed, let's really be obsessed. Orlando is currently the sixth seed in the East. Atlanta (the fifth seed) and New York (the seventh seed) are the Clippers' final two opponents, on the road next Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. if those games are meaningless to those teams, it will certainly help the Clippers to secure (I started to say earn, but it felt wrong) those final two victories.

So, do we want Orlando to win, or do we want Orlando to lose? Yes. If Orlando wins, then New York cannot catch them and is locked into 7 or 8 -- with a reasonable argument that 8 would be preferable for them, so they could decide to shut down until the playoffs start (though they'll want to get Amare Stoudemire some reps probably). If Orlando loses, then they are no longer a threat to Atlanta, which makes it more likely that Atlanta will start to coast some.

In an amazingly perfect world where I pull the strings, Orlando wins this game putting the Knicks into "we'd rather finish eighth then seventh mode" -- then Atlanta beats the tanking Knicks on Sunday, and the Hawks solidify their "we're the fifth seed but we still get home court advantage because our record is better than the Celtics" position. And then Josh Smith and Joe Johnson and Carmelo Antony and Tyson Chandler are all getting days off next week.

But Utah is tough at home, so the Jazz will probably win. If that happens, we still want Atlanta to beat the Knicks tomorrow, but they might actually have to earn it.