After hitting the rookie wall, Click and Roll has found its second wind ... With the excitement building as the regular season draws to a close, Click and Roll has returned to duty every weekday until the playoffs. This way, we can break down the numerous postseason races. So, without further ado, here's what's going on.
Playoff Picture: Race for the postseason | Fri. TV: Magic at Pacers (8 ET, ESPN); Warriors at Suns (10:30 ET, ESPN)
Friday the 13th and Other Scary Story Lines This Weekend
As early as tonight, all eight Eastern Conference playoff teams could be set though the playoff position of each team has yet to be determined.
For Orlando and Milwaukee, each has a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot. A win by either team or a loss by the Wizards will send the Magic and the Bucks to the postseason and Michael Jordan and the Wizards would be eliminated. Even if they are relegated to playing out the string, Jordan said he wouldn't sit. (Washington Post)
The Magic just want to get in so they can rest some bruised bodies, while the Bucks say they'll stick with the current rotation if they do make the postseason. (Orlando Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
In the West, the Suns could reduce their magic number to one and eliminate Golden State tonight with a win over the Warriors in Phoenix. While the Suns are surging, the Rockets are looking for answers to their recent swoon. (Houston Chronicle)
As for the rest of the West, remember when the Lakers were 11-19 after their Christmas Day loss to the Kings and some were wondering whether the Lakers would even make the playoffs?
If it seems like a faint memory, it is. Since getting coal in their stocking that day, the Lakers haven't lost more than two straight games and have gone 37-12, including Thursday's 117-104 royal spanking of the Kings in L.A. The win was the Lakers' sixth consecutive and they have something bigger than the Big Fella on their side: the Big Mo, as in momentum. (L.A. Times)
For the Kings, they can't get the Lakers out of their heads. (L.A. Daily News)
Meanwhile, for the Trail Blazers, objects in their rear view mirror are closer than they appear as the Lakers moved within one-half game of the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.
And who can blame the Timberwolves -- whom the Lakers leap-frogged to get to the fifth seed on Thursday -- for wanting to head east? (Click and Scroll down the article, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
The Sonics will try to keep their playoff hopes alive, but for their next three games, they're going where playoff hopes often vanish without a trace, the dreaded Texas Triangle. (Seattle Times)
While it doesn't sound like a picnic when you're playing for your playoff lives, it doesn’t get any easier at the top of the standings either, especially in the East. Four teams -- Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Indiana -- are within two games of the No. 1 seed.
Still, all is not well with the top four. Jason Kidd ripped into his Nets teammates, as tough as Ben Wallace is, he still can't play for a couple of weeks, the Sixers are always hurting and the Pacers are trying their darnedest to scrape the way to the No. 1 seed. (New York Times, Detroit News, Philadelphia Daily News, Indy Star)
But after this 27-game weekend, we may find out who's hurting more than the others.
And finally, aren't the Celtics running out of numbers? (Boston Globe)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Does L.A. stand for "Lotsa Animosity"?
Some would quibble with a strong word such as hate, but when it comes to the Kings and Lakers, it may be an understatement.
The Lakers have booted the Kings from the playoffs in the last three seasons. Each loss has galled the Kings with last season's seven-game defeat in the Western Conference Finals twisting the knife deeper.
The victors have often poured salt into the Kings' gaping wounds. From "Cowtown" to "the Sacramento Queens" to dissing Mike Bibby's selection to the USA Men's National Team, the Lakers don't confine their shots to the hardwood.
The Kings have responded to the losses and "the Queens" reference by smacking around the Lakers in the preseason. Then, after the Bibby dis', when Shaq scored his 20,000th point in ARCO on March 20, we had BallGate. (Sacramento Bee)
Combine all the squabbling with a dash of playoff positioning, the Kings have their eyes on No.1, while the Lakers would love to sneak up to the fourth seed, and you add just another layer to a rivalry where the two teams play exciting and highly compelling basketball no matter when they meet.
Though on Wednesday, Phil Jackson declared that Shaq had a less-than-compelling reason for missing practice. The Lakers are hoping Shaq won't be flat when Act IV of the Kings-Lakers regular season drama plays out on national television (10 ET, TNT). The Kings lead the season series, 2-1, and the Lakers say they really, really need a win over anyone right now. (L.A. Times)
Of course, it would mean a lot more to Kings fans (and one columnist) if the Kings beat the Lakers in a playoff series. (Sacramento Bee)
That, however, has yet to be determined, as the Western Conference playoff positions are open to on-court debate. San Antonio has proffered the best argument for the West's top spot, going 25-4 since the All-Star Break, including an 84-79 win over Portland on Wednesday. (San Antonio Express-News)
Portland's loss presented the Timberwolves with a golden opportunity to move into the No. 4 seed. The Wolves blew it, however, when they lost to the Sonics later that night in Seattle. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
With the win, the Spurs grabbed the conference's No. 1 seed and moved one game ahead of the stumbling Mavs, who were rousted by the Suns. (Dallas Morning News)
Phoenix's triumph and Houston's defeat at the hands of the Jazz gave the Suns a 2˝-game lead over the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot. With the No. 8 seed being the only open playoff spot remaining in the West, eight is not a bad place to be according to one coach. (Arizona Republic)
In the East, the eighth seed looks as if it is Milwaukee's for the taking. The Bucks clobbered the Clippers and coupled with the Wizards' loss to the Celtics -- which propelled Boston into the playoffs -- gave Milwaukee a 2˝-game lead over Washington. One more Bucks win or one more Wizards loss will close out Washington's season and Michael Jordan's great career. (Washington Post)
"Standings squeeze" reared its ugly head again, this time for the Knicks, who didn't play. But thanks (or no thanks) to Milwaukee's win, the Knicks will be out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
And finally, they like us, they really, really like us. NBA.com was nominated for a Webby Award this week. We're honored to be nominated and proud to be a part of your day.
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Depressed in the Big D, While the Suns Shine On
Goodness gracious, that's one big Lakers albatross around the Mavericks' collective necks. (Dallas Morning News)
At home last week, the Mavs had a chance to break the Lakers' spell. Dallas couldn't do it. On Tuesday, they had another chance and again, they fell short with a 108-99 loss to the Lakers in L.A., the Mavs' 25th consecutive defeat to the Lakers in Tinseltown.
Even L.A. columnists have begun to rub their hands together and throw their heads back with a full-throated maniacal laugh at the prospect of a first round meeting between the Lakers and the Mavs. (L.A. Times)
Dallas's defeat threw the Western Conference seedings into chaos. (Dallas Morning News). And thanks to the Mavericks' loss, the idle Spurs sneaked into the No. 1 seed and the Mavs fell to third. (San Antonio Express-News)
Sacramento, which has clinched at least the No. 2 seed, is a mere game behind both Dallas and San Antonio. And suddenly, the Lakers are only 1˝-games behind the Blazers for the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round.
But Portland stayed ahead of the Lakers and moved one-half step ahead of the Timberwolves with a win over the fading Rockets. (The Oregonian)
According to this report, the Rockets' loss, spurred the Suns over the Nuggets and to a 1˝-game lead over Houston for the West's final playoff spot. (Arizona Republic)
In the East, we had no exchange of playoff position, but the Wizards, with their win over the Cavs, moved within 1˝-games of Milwaukee for the eighth spot. And while Chicago may be his kind of town, MJ is surely only thinking playoffs. (Washington Post)
Also thinking playoffs (and hoping for a miracle), the Knicks stayed alive with a four-point win over the Hawks.
Finally, the Eastern Conference won't have the Hornets to kick around any longer. The NBA Board of Governors voted Tuesday to move the Hornets to the Western Conference by 2004 at the latest. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
Just to put it into perspective, New Orleans is currently the No. 5 seed in the East and would face the hobbled 76ers in the first round. If the Hornets were in the West this season, they'd be the No. 8 seed and they'd face the red-hot Spurs in the first round.
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
The Race for the Playoffs Continues Tonight
Your one-day rest is over, gents. Time to go to work.
With nine of the 11 games on the league's docket tonight featuring teams jockeying for playoff position or teams essaying just to make the playoffs, the action on the court proposes to be intriguing.
No game should be more captivating than the Mavericks' foray into Los Angeles to take on the Lakers (10:30 ET, NBATV). For the Lakers, the game is about staying ahead of the Jazz and possibly catching up with either the Timberwolves or the Blazers, the team L.A. trails by a mere 1˝-games.
The Mavericks, meanwhile ... oh, where to start? They must face down their demons, real and imagined, in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
First, there's the specter of their Dec. 6 loss to the Lakers at STAPLES Center, where Dallas saw a 27-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate like a puddle in Texas during the summer. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Then, there's the streak. The Mavs have lost 24 in a row to the Lakers in L.A., dating back to Dec. 12, 1990. (Dallas Morning News)
And finally, there's that little dose of reality called the Spurs. San Antonio, winners of nine-straight, lurk a scant half-game behind the Mavs and are getting healthy. Based on the idle Spurs currently holding a 2-1 lead in the season series, a loss would drop the Mavs to the No. 3 seed in the West for the time being.
And who would Dallas' first round opponent be at this stage? Oh, you guessed it, the Lakers.
On Tuesday, no game in the East is more important and features more injuries than the Pistons visiting the Sixers. The Pistons, who fell from the East's perch on Sunday, have lost Ben Wallace for two weeks to a sprained MCL. The Sixers, who have fallen from the No. 3 seed to the fourth, have seemingly been beset with injuries, for oh, three seasons. Between Allen Iverson's knee, Keith Van Horn's foot and Derrick Coleman's hand, the Sixers are an orthopedist's dream team. (Philadelphia Daily News)
Indiana, which is just getting back to full strength, has its eyes on the East's No. 1 seed. Beating the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday, would help toward that goal. (Indianapolis Star)
For others, the goal remains just making the playoffs. The Wizards cling to the hope of extending Michael Jordan's career and are two games behind the Bucks for the East's final playoff spot. On Tuesday, Jordan returns to Cleveland for his last game in the city where he breaks hearts as often as he breaks records. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
As for the Knicks, who are 2 1/2 games out of the East's last spot, one loss and they're playing golf on April 17. (New York Daily News) In the West, the four teams fighting for the final spot -- Phoenix, Houston, Seattle and Golden State -- are all in action on Tuesday. The Suns, who play the Nuggets in Denver, hold a half-game lead on the Rockets, who host the Blazers. Golden State hosts Utah, while the Sonics meet the Kings, the first of six games remaining for Seattle against teams above .500. (Tacoma Tribune)
And finally, congrats to Robert Parish, James Worthy, Earl Lloyd and the late, great Chick Hearn for being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (Hall of Fame)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Bad News, a Day's Break, Then Back to the Race
The Pistons, formerly the No. 1 seed in the East (more on that later), saw Ben Wallace, their MVP, their heart and their soul, crumple to the Palace court with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. (Detroit News)
Now, when they say "strained" they mean "torn." Doctors just need to determine the degree of the tear, which they did with an MRI on Monday. Early prognosis: out two weeks.
While a potentially serious injury to your best player can never be a good thing, Wallace's injury couldn't have come at a worse time for the Pistons. (Detroit News)
Already without injured point guards Chauncey Billups and Chucky Atkins, the Pistons are hurtling toward the postseason at less than 100 percent. Add to that Detroit's Sunday afternoon loss to the Spurs, and the Pistons have fallen one-half game behind the Nets for the East's No. 1 seed and remain a scant 1.5 games ahead of Indiana for the Central Division lead.
"Ben is the heart and soul of this team," Michael Curry said, "but guys aren't going to stop playing. There are a lot of fighters in here."
Fighters are in short supply in the East as of late, as only the Nets and the Pacers have a record above .500 in their last 10 games. The Sixers have averaged 80 points in their last two games, both losses, which have dropped them to the No. 4 seed in the East. 2.5 games behind the Nets for the Atlantic Division lead. Of course, it doesn't help when you're as battered and bruised as the Pistons are. (Both stories Philadelphia Inquirer)
The Hornets are 4-6 in their last 10 and the Bucks, who tenuously hang on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, blew a 19-point lead in Chicago on Saturday night. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Magic have lost their last four and went through the Texas Triangle with losses of 13, 18 and 21 points. (Orlando Sentinel)
While the East goes to heck in one of Naismith's peach baskets, playoff spots in the wild, wild West are rarer than a saloon with swinging doors as the Lakers and the Jazz clinched postseason berths. This resulting "standings squeeze" leaves one spot for the Suns, the Rockets, the Sonics and the Warriors over which they can rumble.
(And as an aside, that's 20 straight playoff appearances for the Jazz. To put that in perspective, Denver's Nikoloz Tskitishvili was 1 year, 3 days old when the Jazz topped the Nuggets 123-121 in Utah on April 17, 1984.)
While the Warriors sit three games behind Phoenix for the No. 8 seed, Seattle is only two games behind, while the retro-Rockets rest just one-half game behind the Suns. Money, it had to be the unis. (Seattle Times, Houston Chronicle)
"We were feeling good in those unis," Rockets guard Moochie Norris said of the Rockets' old red and gold uniforms. "We knew we had to respect the uniforms. Even before the tip, we felt good. They won championships in those uniforms. We had to live up to that. I wish we could keep wearing them."
Sorry, Moochie. The Rockets go back to the stripes against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. The Blazers will need to rebound after falling on Sunday to Minnesota as the jousting for the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in the West continue. The Wolves feel they need home-court advantage. That win on Sunday kept the home fires burning. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
Meanwhile, the Mavs, the West's current No. 1 seed, feel a perfect finish in their last six will give them momentum heading into the playoffs. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
No one will be finishing anything on Monday, as the league takes a night off. But after the one-day breather, the race for the playoffs shifts into high gear as the NBA has eight days to get the mess in the East sorted out and the last best of the West into the playoffs.
In what was already a disastrous season for the Raptors, the situation turned worse when Vince Carter sprained his ankle and will most likely miss this rest of the season. (Toronto Globe and Mail)
Tim Hardaway says TV is harder than it looks. (Miami Herald)
Dikembe Mutombo wants more time on the floor and less on the pine. (N.Y. Post)
Yep, the Pacers are hot again. (Indy Star)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com