As you may know, the Clippers stunned the Utah Jazz last night in Utah 102-99 in overtime. Jamal Crawford played well overall and hit the game winning three-point shot with ticks left on the game clock. While the Clippers didn't profit from this win in terms of the standings (they're stuck with the 4th seed regardless), it was definitely encouraging to see players like Cole Aldrich and Pablo Prigioni step up and contribute in a big way. Even Paul Pierce turned the clock back with a great offensive performance.
In the meantime, the Western Conference's 5-8 seeds remain murky.
Who Will Face the Clippers?
The Portland Trail Blazers currently hold the 5th seed by half a game. They have the same amount of losses as the Memphis Grizzlies, but have played, and won, one extra game. Having tied their seasonal series 2-2, Portland owns the better conference record (28-22) over Memphis (25-24) for the tiebreaker.
Dallas meanwhile has won 6 straight and continues to lurk with a chance for the 5th seed and its dream match up against the Clippers. Dallas is one game back in the loss column with 38 losses compared to Memphis and Portland's 37 losses. Memphis however got beat by Dallas 103-93 last night. Dallas won the seasonal series 3-1 and controls the tiebreaker. Dallas also owns the seasonal series over Portland by a score of 2-1. Thus if Dallas can tie one or both of the other two teams, it will capture the 5th seed by virtue of having a better wining percentage against the other 2 teams (either individually or combined, depending on tie breaking procedure needed/implemented).
Dallas does however have our Los Angeles Clippers (in LA) next, followed by games at Utah and at home against the Spurs. While it remains to be seen how competitive the Clippers and Spurs care to be, Utah is likely going to feel pressured to win. Dallas will need to continue winning in order to avoid the Spurs/Thunder in the first round. If the Clippers don't feeling Dallas in the first round, they can directly impact whether they do.
Who wants to face the Warriors?
It seems no team wants to offer themselves as tribute in a match up against the Golden State Warriors. After Houston choked against Phoenix on Thursday, at home, 124-115, it seemed like the Rockets had all but eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Utah had a chance to go up by two games in the standings for the 8th seed. But the Jazz didn't. They lost to the Clippers' bench and find themselves now only 1 game ahead of the Rockets. More importantly, with their seasonal series split at 2-2, Houston's conference record would get them into the playoffs if they tied the Jazz. The Rockets are 25-24, while Utah is 23-26 in conference games.
In theory Dallas could fall back and make the 7/8th seed a 3 team conversation, but Dallas is closer to the 5th seed than the 8th seed.
The Eastern Conference
While the Western Conference has the chance of admitting a below-.500 team into the playoffs for the first time in a long time, the Eastern Conference will not. Whether that really means anything in terms of the quality/strength of each conference is a different question. Still, things are looking bright for many teams in the East.
After Detroit secured a playoff seed yesterday and Indiana is on the verge with a comfortable 3 game lead and a record of 42-37 for (at least) the 8th seed in the East (granted, Indiana did lose last night to Toronto).
There remains a lack of clarity of seeding for 7th and 8th as well as seeds 3-6 in the East.