Playoffs Snapshot — April 17



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It all comes down to this, the final night of the NBA regular season.

We’re not used to the one-and-done stuff around here, not when champions are crowned in a best-of-seven environment. It’s rare that we get to see teams dealing with a 48-minute cauldron that decides their fate (there are still tons of moving parts, as we detailed earlier in our complex playoff scenarios update). For some that means determining whether or nor they make the playoffs at all. For others it’s the difference between a desired (or dreaded) seed in the playoffs. And for some, that means whether or not you host a first-round series or start on the road.

Either way, it all comes down to this one night. The clock is winding down on the regular season for everyone. All 30 teams are on the schedule tonight, but the finale means a little more for the teams involved in these matchups:

ATLANTA HAWKS at NEW YORK KNICKS (8 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Hawks were supposed to be fighting for the fifth seed Tuesday night against Toronto, but they didn’t look like they had a whole lot of fight in them during that TNT broadcast. The Hawks went through the motions during their home finale (without Al Horford) and got pounded by the Raptors. The Knicks will rest Carmelo Anthony and others heading into this weekend’s playoff opener, so the Hawks should have an edge. They have to finish with a better record than the Bulls to get the fifth seed, because the Bulls own the tie-breaker. An interesting side note: Anthony has already locked up his first scoring title without even suiting up since Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant said on Instagram he won’t play tonight in Milwaukee.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS at CHICAGO BULLS (8 p.m. ET, League Pass): The beautiful thing about the Bulls under coach Tom Thibodeau is that they’ll never be accused of not pushing it to the max every night of the season. This should be no different. Thibs will make sure his team shows up with the same nasty disposition for this game that they did for the 81 games that came before it. The Bulls want that No. 5 seed because Thibs won’t allow them to backslide into anything. And this notion that the Hawks and Bulls would rather avoid the No. 5 seed, and the potential second-round matchup against the Heat that comes with it, is laughable. You have to get past the Brooklyn Nets before you get to worry about the Heat.

UTAH JAZZ at MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): This is truly a win-or-go-home game for the Jazz. They have to win this game to keep their season alive and then they have to start their rain dance in the locker room and root for the Houston Rockets to upend the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center (10:30 ET, ESPN). The only problem for the Jazz? The Grizzlies need this game just as bad. Their seed is set, they’re going into the Western Conference playoffs at No. 5. But they can still host their first-round series by virtue of having a better record than the Los Angeles Clippers, provided the Clippers wind up at No. 4 (more on this below). This one will have all of the intensity of a playoff elimination game. It’s must-see TV!

PHOENIX SUNS at DENVER NUGGETS (8 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Nuggets have home court locked up, but their seed hangs in the balance tonight. George Karl‘s crew can clinch the No. 3 spot with a win over the Suns or if the Los Angeles Clippers fall in Sacramento. The Nuggets need to handle their business first and foremost, though, because if they end up with the same record as the Clippers, they lose out on the tie-breaker even after winning the season series with the Pacific Division champs. The No. 3 seed also keeps the Nuggets from having to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.

HOUSTON ROCKETS at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (10:30 p.m., ESPN): Kobe Bryant will be watching (from his home in Orange County as he’s been ordered to stay off of his surgically repaired torn Achilles) and willing his Lakers to a much-needed victory and into the playoffs in his absence. His playoff guarantee is on the line. But at least the Lakers, winners of four straight, control their own destiny. All they have to do is win. The Rockets, on the other hand, could land anywhere from No. 6 to No. 8 (it’s complicated). But this is all about the Lakers and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, and whether or not these two big men can drive the Lakers into the playoffs and into a space where they can make the noise Bryant promised they would in the first round.

L.A. CLIPPERS at SACRAMENTO KINGS (10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Clippers’ march to the Pacific crown guarantees them of  a top-four seed in the Western Conference. But being No. 4 does not guarantee them home-court advantage (as explained above) if they get locked into a 4-5 matchup with a Grizzlies team that could finish the season with a better record. I’m sure the Clippers love Beale Street and dinners at the Rendezvous like we all do, but it would be a shame if they have to celebrate the first division title in franchise history by going on the road to start the playoffs.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): All the Warriors have to do is win to lock down the No. 6 seed. Lose, however, and things get a bit sticky. They’ve worked too hard this season to allow the Houston Rockets to decide their playoff picture. (Houston can finish as high as No. 6 and as low as No. 8, depending on how things shake out tonight around the Western Conference.) But they might not have a choice since the Rockets and Lakers will be finished playing before they get done in Portland tonight.

Bottom line, the playoffs start tonight for every team on this list!

26 Comments

  1. mr_x says:

    Probably Lakers without Kobe will be better then with KG. Good for them that they will play with Spurs not with Thunder.

  2. rantrave says:

    The Lakers will make it to the playoffs, but if they match up with OKC in the first round, oh man they’re dead meat.

  3. furnacefuneral84 says:

    The lakers most likely will make the playoffs without kobe. But when the playoffs start and lakers have to face oklahoma or san antonio I don’t feel like they can win without him. Kobe just brings it all 110% in the post season. Who is going to come thru in the clutch of 4th quarter? No one does it like kobe. I hope lakers play okc I feel like with their big players they can soften up the thunder in the first round and really wear them out. I’m not a thunder fan at all.

  4. Vin says:

    Houston should battle hard to keep their 7th place… Spurs is on the way downhill and if there’s a 1st round upset it would be them…

  5. Jaleel says:

    I honestly believe that the Lakers will make it to the playoffs. The reason why is because of their to dominant big man. But I’m feeling to happy about their playoff match-up if they make it. (Thunder).

  6. whestcoast says:

    “But they might not have a choice since the Rockets and Lakers will be finished playing before they get done in Portland tonight.”
    Actually lakers/rockets and warriors/blazers game starts at same time so its impossible to tell which game will be done first unless you have esp

  7. Jason says:

    The Lakers will struggle to beat Houston since Nash is out. Utah, however will lose to Memphis so the Lakers will still make the playoffs. Then they have no chance against the Thunder.

  8. o says:

    Lakers are going to shoot more than 50 free throws. Watch out Houston.

  9. CSprings says:

    How in the world would the Nugg’s loose tiebreaker if they have a winning record against the Clippers? Is it because of the Clipps western conference record?

  10. Asian Boy! says:

    …..Chicago will beat Brooklyn and it will advance in 2nd round against Miami… Go Bulls!!!

  11. rocketman says:

    so it seems to me that the refs will be helping out the lakers so they can make the playoffs. BEAT L.A
    Go Clutch City!!!

  12. Allan says:

    The lakers might be better without Kobe I think..between gasol n Howard they should dominate the paint paying inside out with their shooters. Though they will miss Kobe in clutch time

    • Tricky says:

      The Lakers are in no possible way better without Kobe! I can’t believe you actually posted that seriously. Without Kobe this team wouldn’t even be in the playoff hunt. How could they be better without a top 10 all-time great?

      • Milz says:

        Correction my friend…Top 5 All-Time

      • Chris in Cle says:

        Because Dwight and the Magic never made the playoffs? I know the West is typically a stronger conference, but to say that D. Howard cannot will a team into the playoffs with a mediocre supporting cast is simply untrue. I’m not a Laker fan, but I am a fan of the sport. No real bias in the West from me, but any team where Howard is the center is a formidable team.

  13. Chris says:

    Steve nash is not playing today noOo

  14. samps says:

    I will pray all day long for Lakers to win. I’d want Utah to win as a consolation prize…but watchout, Memphis is a good home team….Can’t imagine playoffs without Lakers and Boston on either side..gonna be interesting!

  15. yni says:

    Imagine a playoff without Lakers ??? hmmmm it may be fun but less interesting.
    Imagine a playoff without Kobe??? this would mean a layoff (and not a playoff).
    Worst,imagine a Lakers team without Kobe??? ‘guess this one is not interesting.

    • Omar says:

      yeah the nba is about the Lakers or Kobe… no offense but your an idiot!

      • brandon says:

        you know win you lose that just how it go …. Im a lakers fan and it will be hard to not see no kobe in da playoff this year but hey i guss we will see what da laker can without him …. GO LAKERS GO LAKERS….

      • he is….because without Kobe the lakers can utilize Nash since this time he has the ball more instead of Kobe, when kobe is around, nash just becomes a spot up shooter…and his skills were never really utilized…plus the lakers can still win it all without kobe

    • Tim says:

      yni, the playoffs without the Lakers would only be less interesting to those who support the Lakers. If you are a fan of basketball, or if your team made the final 16, it will be just as good.

      Sure it’s sad to see Kobe get hurt. Especially when he is known to ignore his injuries for the sake of playing, but it’s sad to see anyone else being hurt too. Again, to those who love the game, they would have interest in watching every playoff game no matter who’s in or who’s not.

    • Scott says:

      dumb comment, look at how the other players are playing…

      they don’t need Kobe anymore he is too old. It should be Dwight’s team now…