Today’s NBA slate has 10 games.
· Charlotte Hornets at Indiana Pacers
· New York Knicks at Washington Wizards
· Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
· Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets
· Detroit Pistons at Chicago Bulls
· Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves
· Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies
· Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs
· New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings
· Portland Trailblazers at Los Angeles Lakers
Of these games, only 4 have an impact on the Western Conference standings. I’ve listed them below in the order that you may find them interesting.
Oklahoma City Thunder (42-33) at Memphis Grizzlies (51-24)
Time: 5:00 PM PST
Injuries: Tony Allen (hamstring) is Doubtful for Memphis. Durant (foot) is Out for the Season. Andre Roberson (ankle) and Nick Collison (knee) are expected back soon. Ibaka (knee) is out till mid-April.
Notes: Kevin Durant will have only played in 27 games this year. In comparison, Kobe Bryant appeared in 35 games this year.
Impact: The Thunder must win to keep pace for the 8th seed. The Pelicans have a pretty easy game and a loss by the Thunder, along with a win by the Pelicans, puts the Thunder out of the playoffs. This isn’t necessarily surprising as many people were curious at the beginning of the season whether the Thunder were going to make the playoffs given injuries. Now that question has proven more accurate than anyone could’ve imagined. The Grizzlies meanwhile are fighting for the second seed. Houston has passed them (for now) because Houston has played, and won, one more game. Memphis still has a better divisional record though and would get the second seed in case of a tie in record between Houston and Memphis.
New Orleans Pelicans (40-34) at Sacramento Kings (26-48)
Time: 7:00 PM PST
Injuries: Jrue Holiday (leg) is expected back soon for the Pelicans. Rudy Gay (concussion) is expected back soon for the Kings. Darren Collison (hip) is out till mid-April. Eric Moreland (shoulder) is Out for the Season for the Kings.
Notes: The Kings have lost their last 3. That has kept them 6th in the NBA Tankathon Standings. (See here.) Odds are however that they won’t surpass Orlando as they need to make up 5 losses in those standings; instead, the Kings’ best hope is just to keep losing and stay ahead of Denver, which sits only 1 loss behind the Kings in the standings. Per Tankathon, a coin flip decides who picks firs between teams with the same record, and tied lottery teams split their ping pong balls evenly, and any odd remainder and order position are given to the coin flip winner.
Impact: The Pelicans are only 1 game in the loss column behind the Thunder and own the tiebreaker. This game should be a win and could very well put the Pelicans in position to take the 8th seed. This team would probably give the Warriors more problems if only because the Pelicans are getting healthier.
Portland Trailblazers (48-26) at Los Angeles Lakers (20-54)
Time: 7:30 PM PST
Injuries: Wesley Matthews (Achilles) is Out for the Season. Dorrell Wright (hand) is out at least until early May for the Blazers too. The Lakers have lost Julius Randle (leg), Steve Nash (ankle), Wayne Ellington (shoulder) and Kobe (shoulder) for the season. They are however expecting Nick Young (knee) and Ronnie Price (elbow) back soon.
Notes: Everyone’s been shaking their heads at the playoff seeding rules, and rightfully so. There’s no reason why Portland deserves a top 4 seed (even if it didn’t produce home-court advantage in the first round). Still, Portland gets the chance tonight to pad their wins with a game that should be a cake walk. The Lakers don’t exactly have "pride" to play for anymore and losses help their lottery odds. That said, the Lakers won on March 30th at Philadelphia, so perhaps the Lakers have no idea what they’re doing.
Impact: Portland is tied with the Clippers in losses, but the Clippers have won the 2 extra games they’ve played. IF the records end up tied, the first tiebreaker is DIVISIONAL WINNERS (see here). So the Clippers still need to continue winning and hoping that the Trailblazers lose.
Denver Nuggets (28-47) at San Antonio Spurs (49-26)
Time: 5:30 PM PST
Injuries: The Spurs have no injuries to report. The Nuggets have JJ Hickson (knee) and Darrell Arthur (calf) as Questionable tonight.
Notes: Denver will likely take their loss happily. The Nuggets are only 1 loss ahead of the Pistons for the 7th overall worst record. It’s thus interesting to note that of the 8 worst teams in the NBA, by records, 4 of them are in the Western Conference.
Impact: The Spurs are sitting at 6th but could jump still to 2nd. They’re only 2 games in the loss column behind the Rockets. The Clippers are tied with the Spurs in the loss column but have one game advantage in wins and also a 5 game lead for in-conference record. Expect the Nuggets to fold and the Spurs to rest up their players. The Spurs have a daunting schedule ahead with every team above .500 and only the Suns being one not in the Western conference playoffs hunt. Thus I wouldn’t worry too much about the Spurs overtaking the Clippers or even scaling their way to the second seed. If the Spurs somehow did win out, then even the Warriors need to be scared. Otherwise, it may very well be beneficial for the Clippers to see the Spurs play semi-well because they have 2 games upcoming against the Rockets that could help the Clippers make up critical ground in the West.