Breaking down the NBA playoff race as it winds down

first_imgThe Warriors have lost twice by at least 33 points already this month, though in fairness they sat Klay Thompson in one of those games and Stephen Curry in the other.At least they know they’re going to the postseason. Not everyone has had that ability to exhale yet.San Antonio still hasn’t clinched a 22nd consecutive playoff spot, which would tie Philadelphia (1950-71, some of that as the Syracuse Nationals) for the league record, though the Spurs are well on their way.“That’s a good sign that they’re figuring it out,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.Charlotte’s Tony Parker’s quest for an 18th straight playoff appearance is in trouble. James’ run of 13 straight is over. Minnesota’s Jeff Teague has been in the league for 10 years, and this is the first time he won’t be in the postseason.ADVERTISEMENT Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, right, signs for fans after an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Washington. The Heat won 113-108. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)MIAMI — The playoff field is largely set.The positioning, that’s still anyone’s guess.ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ Panelo: Duterte ‘angry’ with SEA Games hosting hassles Wintry storm delivers US travel woes before Thanksgiving Cayetano: Senate, Drilon to be blamed for SEA Games mess Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next LaMarcus Aldridge’s 48 lead Spurs past skidding Celtics Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting LATEST STORIES Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Memphis’ Omri Casspi has now played in 588 career games for seven different franchises, zero of them in the playoffs, and that won’t change this year in what is now the fourth-longest playoff drought by any player in NBA history. And Golden State’s DeMarcus Cousins — finally — should play in a playoff game, barring injury between now and the second weekend of April.The Warriors are in that place where they’re tuning up for the postseason, but they also want to ensure that they close their time at Oakland’s Oracle Arena the right way before moving into a brand-new Chase Center in San Francisco next season.“Our players and our organization, we’re basically dedicating this season to Oracle and the East Bay and to Oakland,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We know we’re not moving that far, but we’re moving from this building and we’re moving from this city and that’s not an easy thing for anybody. This season is all about finishing it the right way and doing it for the people in Oakland.”Let’s take a look at where things are:EASTERN CONFERENCEIN: No. 1 Milwaukee, No. 2 Toronto, No. 3 Philadelphia, No. 4 Indiana.The Bucks are in total control of the race for the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Really, the two interesting games left on their schedule are Tuesday against Houston (Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. James Harden in the MVP battle will be the dominant narrative there, as if one game will change much) and April 4 at Philadelphia (two teams that just don’t like one another). Toronto’s remaining schedule is the easiest left in the NBA, but the Raptors may have run out of time in their quest to catch the Bucks.ON THE VERGE: Boston. It’s only a matter of time. The Celtics are going to get in.WHAT’S LEFT: Technically, six teams — Detroit, Brooklyn, Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Washington — for three spots. Washington’s odds are almost nonexistent. The Miami-Orlando game on Tuesday is enormous, especially for the Heat. Brooklyn’s remaining schedule looks incredibly tough, unless the Nets run into some teams who rest stars on those nights. And with two games against Milwaukee in April, that’s possible.OUT: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, New York. View comments Bloomberg: US would benefit from more, not fewer, immigrants Google Philippines names new country director PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Trump tells impeachment jokes at annual turkey pardon event Colombia protesters vow new strike after talks hit snag So even while some of what we could have had for drama over the final 2½ weeks of the NBA regular season won’t materialize — LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are already out of the playoffs, robbing us of one potential story line — the races for seedings and home-court edges are almost certain now to go down to the final days of the season.Milwaukee has the edge over all other teams in the race for the No. 1 overall seed. Dwyane Wade’s career still isn’t guaranteed of going past Miami’s regular-season finale in Brooklyn on April 10. Golden State, bidding for a third straight NBA championship and fourth in five years, still has a fight on its hands just to get the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesSPORTSSingapore latest to raise issue on SEA Games food, logistics“We’re ready to take on any challenger,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said.There have been nights where that’s looked like a very accurate statement. Others, not so much. THE WEEK AHEADA game to watch every day this week:— Monday, Brooklyn at Portland: The Blazers clinch with a win, as the Nets’ seven-game trip continues.— Tuesday, Orlando at Miami: Major East implications and the Heat retire Chris Bosh’s No. 1 jersey.— Wednesday, Indiana at Oklahoma City: Paul George’s former team visits Paul George’s current team.— Thursday, L.A. Clippers at Milwaukee: Doc Rivers and Mike Budenholzer both merit coach of the year.— Friday, Indiana at Boston: The way things are right now this would be a first-round playoff series.— Saturday, Miami at New York: Dwyane Wade’s final game at Madison Square Garden, his favorite.— Sunday, L.A. Lakers at New Orleans: Because we can’t get enough LeBron James vs. Anthony Davis. WESTERN CONFERENCEIN: No. 1 Golden State, No. 2 Denver, No. 3 Houston.The race for No. 1 in the West is obviously important for home-court advantage through as many rounds as possible, but there’s something else for the Warriors and Nuggets to consider. If Houston — playoff-bound for a franchise-record-tying seventh straight year — finishes in the No. 3 spot (which is far from guaranteed), then the top-seeded team would avoid seeing James Harden until the West finals. Golden State’s lead over Denver is only a half-game, but the Warriors’ remaining schedule is a ton easier than what Denver has left.ON THE VERGE: Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City, Utah, San Antonio. The Spurs are eighth, but they have a very easy schedule left and shouldn’t have much trouble not only clinching, but possibly moving up a spot or two.STILL WITH A TINY CHANCE: Sacramento, which probably can’t lose more than one or two games the rest of the way.OUT: Minnesota, the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans, Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix.SLOVENIAN SHOWDOWNLost amid the playoff hubbub is this: They’re expecting hundreds of Slovenian fans in Miami on Thursday.Goran Dragic vs. Luka Doncic for the first time is the reason why.The NBA’s two Slovenian players this season — who teamed up to help their tiny nation win the European championship in 2017 — will finally face off. Dragic missed Miami’s game in Dallas last month, so this will be their first time sharing the court in different uniforms.last_img

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