Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 103-99: The Wizards won a pivotal game five at home to take a 3-2 series lead over the Hawks. Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap were phenomenal again, but they weren’t enough to overcome a lackluster performance from the Hawks’ bench. John Wall and Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 20 points and 27 points, respectively. Otto Porter Jr. had an efficient day with 17 points on 4 shots. Their bench also struggled, but the three-headed monster of Wall, Beal, and Porter Jr. were enough to seal the victory. These two teams will play game six on Friday in Atlanta.
Boston Celtics defeat Chicago Bulls 108-97: The Celtics won their third straight game in this series to take a 3-2 series lead over the Bulls. Chicago was without point guard Rajon Rondo for a third straight game, which may end up being the deciding factor in this series if Rondo isn’t able to return. Rondo was inconsistent all season, but played at an elite level in the first two games of the series. He’ll try to play in game six, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to return. Jimmy Butler had his first mediocre game of the series, and his teammates were not able to pick up the slack. The Tacoma, Washington backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley each scored 24 points. Chicago will need to slow down the Celtics’ backcourt if they want to win game six and keep their season alive. These two teams will play game six on Friday in Chicago.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: After losing the last two games in Atlanta, the Wizards return home to face the Hawks in a pivotal game five. With the series being tied at two games apiece, the winner of this game will be overwhelming favorites to advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Hawks have played up to their potential for two straight games, but haven’t shown the ability to dominate the Wizards on the road. John Wall has been the best player in the series through four games, but hasn’t gotten the help from his teammates on the road that he did at home. Now that they’ve returned home to Washington, Wall will need his teammates to play at a high level if they want to win this series. The Wizards cannot afford a slip up against a less talented Hawks team. Although this game isn’t the deciding game in the series, it is crucial for both teams that they play at a high level in this pivotal game five.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics: The Celtics return home to Boston to face the Bulls in a pivotal game five. After losing the first two games at home, the desperate Celtics evened the series by winning back-to-back road games in Chicago. Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo missed games three and four with an injury, and likely won’t be able to return in this series. The Bulls struggled without their point guard in the last two games, and will need some sort of contribution from Rondo’s replacements. With the Celtics back in the driver’s seat, they cannot afford another home loss to this injured Bulls team. Although this game isn’t the deciding game in the series, the winner will be overwhelming favorites to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 118-93: The Toronto Raptors took a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks with a dominating win in game five. The Raptors got off to a fast start and never looked back. The Raptors didn’t get much of a contribution from their bench, but all five of their starters scored in double figures. The “trash bros” backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan played their second consecutive great game, even though Lowry was playing through a back injury. The Raptors were led by Norman Powell, who scored 25 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 30 points on 12-19 shooting. He had a great all-around game, but didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates. Khris Middleton had another terrible game. He scored only 8 points and looked out of rhythm throughout the game. Milwaukee needs to win the last two games of the series if they want to advance to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. These two teams will play game six on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Washington Wizards 111-101: The Hawks defeated the Wizards at home to even the series at two games apiece. Although the Wizards have the better starting unit, all five of the Hawks’ starters scored in double figures. The Hawks also got bench contributions from Kent Bazemore and Jose Calderon. The Wizards were led by their backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, but didn’t get help from the rest of their starters. After a terrible game three, Beal bounced back to lead the Wizards with 32 points. John Wall scored 22 points, but wasn’t as efficient in game four as he was in the first three games of the series. Although the Hawks won both games at home, they are still the underdogs in this series. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Washington.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 128-103: The Warriors completed a four game sweep of the Trail Blazers with a convincing win in Portland. The Warriors got off to a fast start by scoring 45 points in the first quarter. Damian Lillard was dominant again for the Trail Blazers, but he didn’t get help from anyone besides Al Farouq Aminu. C.J. McCollum had his worst game of the series, scoring just 6 points on 2-12 shooting from the field. Although this was Kevin Durant’s return game, he only scored 10 points in 20 minutes of play. The Splash Bros picked up the slack by combining for 55 points. The Warriors were playing for coach Steve Kerr, who has missed the last few games because of complications from back surgery. Hopefully he’ll be able to return to coaching during the second round of the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors: The Bucks and Raptors are playing a pivotal game five in Toronto which will break the 2-2 series tie and give one of these teams an overwhelming advantage to win the series. Although the Raptors are favored to win this game and the series, the Bucks proved they can win in Toronto when they won the first game of the series. The Raptors were outplayed in each of the first three games, but were able to steal game two despite a poor performance from their backcourt. Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have lived up to their “trash bros” nickname during the playoffs, but are still in the driver’s seat to advance to the second round. They both had their first great game of the series in game four, which happened to be the first game that Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled. This game will come down to the two stars for each team. If Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton dominate, the Bucks will win game five. If Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan dominate, the Raptors will win game five. The stars for both teams will be under enormous pressure to help their team win and become overwhelming favorites to advance to the second round to face the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks: The Wizards and Hawks will play a crucial game four in Atlanta that could possibly decide the series. If the Wizards win game four, they’ll take a 3-1 series lead back to Washington. In all likelihood, the Hawks won’t win the series if they lose this game. If the Hawks win game four, they’ll even the series at two games apiece. Either way, the Wizards will still be favored to advance to the second round. John Wall has been fantastic in all three games, but didn’t get any contribution from his teammates in game three. If the Hawks are able to shut down John Wall’s teammates again, they’ll have a great chance of winning this game. If Wall and his teammates are able to play their style of basketball, they Hawks will be in serious trouble. For all intents and purposes, this is a must-win game for the Atlanta Hawks.
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers: The Warriors look to complete the sweep of the Trail Blazers in Portland. The Warriors have dominated the series, even with superstar Kevin Durant missing games two and three. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been dominant in two of the three games, but it ultimately hasn’t mattered because they haven’t gotten any help from their teammates. Jusuf Nurkic tried to play in game three and was ineffective. He won’t play in game four and likely won’t return later in the series (if the Trail Blazers win this game). The Splash Bros have been dominant all series, and have gotten large contributions from their teammates to win all three games. Portland will try to become the first team to win a seven game series after losing the first three games, but they probably won’t even win this game. This isn’t a must-win game for the Warriors, but they’d like to win and get some rest. Hopefully they’ll be able to get Durant and coach Steve Kerr back during the playoffs, but they probably won’t need either of them to advance past Portland to the second round.
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 87-76: The Raptors defeated the Bucks in a defensive struggle that evened the series at two games apiece. The Raptors were able to regain the home-court advantage by shutting down Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton also struggled with his shot all game, which caused the Bucks to lean on their role players. Tony Snell was their best player all game, but he doesn’t have the talent of Antetokounmpo or Middleton to lead the Bucks to victory. Both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had a great game for the Raptors. This was the first game in the series that both of their stars showed up. These two teams will play game five on Monday in Toronto.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Washington Wizards 116-98: The Hawks dominated the Wizards to win their first game of the series. They outscored the Wizards 38-20 in the first quarter and never looked back. Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap, and Taurean Prince all had huge games for the Hawks. The Wizards were switching every pick and roll all game long, which ended up being a failed strategy. The Hawks were attacking the mismatches and scored at will. The Wizards’ starting unit struggled all game. John Wall was fantastic again, but didn’t get any help from the other four starters. Wall had the highlight of the game when he went coast-to-coast and dribbled the ball behind his back before dunking on Kent Bazemore. That was the only highlight of the game for Washington. These two teams will play game four on Monday in Atlanta.
Memphis Grizzlies defeat San Antonio Spurs 110-108 (OT): In the most exciting game of the playoffs, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs in overtime on a last-second shot by Marc Gasol. The final few minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime were absolutely fantastic. This is what playoff basketball is all about. Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the floor and made his case for being the league’s MVP (although it is a regular season award). He hit multiple clutch shots in the final minutes to send it to overtime. A few times I caught myself calling him Kobe because his performance was mamba-esque. He led all scorers with 43 points and played fantastic defense all game long. Mike Conley played like a superstar point guard. He hit clutch shots down the stretch and helped rally his team when it seemed like Leonard was going to win the game singlehandedly. After Leonard hit a game tying shot in the final seconds of overtime, Marc Gasol put in an ugly looking game-winning shot with a second remaining. These two teams will play game five on Tuesday in San Antonio.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 119-113: In a game that the Warriors were missing star Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr, Golden State took a commanding 3-0 lead in this series. The Trail Blazers got off to a fast start with a 67-54 halftime lead. But the Warriors came out in the second half and dominated to get the victory. Klay Thompson took over the third quarter by hitting multiple threes. The Warriors started getting stops defensively, which fueled their fast break offense. The Warriors have won both games without Kevin Durant, which shows how dominant of a team they are. Portland’s star backcourt put in a combined 63 points, but they were not enough to defeat the heavily favored Warriors. These two teams will play game four on Monday in Portland.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: After a pathetic showing in game three, the Raptors will look to bounce back and even the series at two games apiece. The Raptors cannot afford to go down 3-1 in the series, even though they are the more talented team and have the potential to win three straight games against the Bucks. The problem with this Raptors team is their confidence. If they go down 3-1 in this series, they’ll have to win despite being a perennial playoff underachiever. They added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline, which will end up being a huge waste if they don’t make it out of the first round (especially if both leave in free agency). The Bucks have outplayed the Raptors in all three games of this series. With this game being in front of their home crowd, they have a good chance of taking a commanding lead in this series. The winner of this game will be huge favorites to advance to the second round.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are playing the Wizards at home in a must-win game. After losing both games in Washington, the Hawks cannot afford to go down 3-0 in this series. They’ve been competitive in the first three quarters of both games, but have struggled to close in the fourth quarter. John Wall has been the best player on the floor in both games. The Hawks don’t have a player that can stop him, so they’ll have to collectively try to limit his impact. The Wizards have the much more talented starting lineup, so the Hawks will need their bench players to rise to the occasion if they want to stay competitive in this series
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies: After a convincing win in game three, the Grizzlies can even the series at home against the Spurs. After game two, the Grizzlies’ coach was critical of the referees. Although they won game three, the Spurs still received more foul calls than the Grizzlies. But that didn’t matter, because coach David Fizdale got his point across. He wanted his team to realize that they shouldn’t change their game plan because of how the refs were calling the game. The Grizzlies are a tough and aggressive team, and they cannot afford to stray from that style of basketball because they aren’t getting calls. Fizdale moved Zach Randolph into the starting lineup, which ended up being a fantastic decision. Although this game is extremely important for the Grizzlies, the Spurs will still be the favorites to win the series no matter who wins this game.
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers return home to Portland in this must-win game against the heavily favored Warriors. After an embarrassing loss in game two, the Trail Blazers’ star backcourt needs to bounce back and lead their team to victory. With Kevin Durant missing game two, the Trail Blazers had their best chance to steal a road game from the Warriors. The Warriors will be heavy favorites to advance no matter what happens in this game. Durant may miss this game too, which likely won’t end up mattering. Portland needs to win four straight games to make Damian Lillard’s “Trail Blazers in 6” prediction come true. If Lillard doesn’t have a stellar game tonight, the Warriors will take a commanding 3-0 lead in this series.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 109-101: The Wizards defeated the Hawks in a back-and-forth game by dominating in the finals minutes of the fourth quarter. After an evenly matched first quarter, the Wizards dominated the second quarter to take a seven point lead at halftime. The Hawks dominated the third quarter to take the lead back before getting dominated in the fourth quarter. Although the back-and-forth style of game was exciting, it was ruined by the referees. It’s a common theme in the playoffs to see refs taking over the games, and it’s so damn embarrassing to watch. It seemed like the refs were calling fouls on every possession. Nobody paid money to watch you ref, we all want to see the players decide the game on the court. Luckily, the Wizards were the better team on the court and deserved to win. John Wall and Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 32 points and 31 points, respectively. Now that the Hawks are down 0-2 in the series, they’ll need to win game three in Atlanta. Neither of these next two games are must-win games for the Hawks, but they’ll have to dig themselves out of a serious hole if they aren’t able to even the series before heading back to Washington for game five. These two teams will play game three on Saturday in Atlanta.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 115-111: The Thunder looked poised to steal this game on the road through three quarters, but weren’t able to hold on in the fourth quarter. The Rockets were able to get contributions from their role players, which is something that plagued the Thunder in this game. This was an issue partly due to Russell Westbrook’s “hero ball” that he played towards the end of the fourth quarter. He decided that he’d take over the game, but was missing a bunch of contested jumpers. His shot selection has always been an issue, and it plagued his team down the stretch when he went cold. But it’s hard to blame a guy who scored 51 points to go along with his 13 assists and 10 rebounds. This was the highest scoring triple-double in NBA playoff history. But these stats can be misleading. Westbrook shot an abysmal 17-43 from the field. Although he struggled down the stretch, the Rockets’ ability to make shots in crunch time was the most important deciding factor of this game. James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, but he struggled shooting from the field. He scored 18 points from the free throw line. He was able to contribute in other ways and was uplifted by his teammates’ contributions. The Thunder return to Oklahoma City down 0-2, and they’ll need to win these two home games if they want to get back in the series. These two teams will play game three on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 110-81: In a game that the Warriors had to play without superstar Kevin Durant, the Trail Blazers came up flat when they had their best chance to steal a game on the road. If the Trail Blazers can’t win this game on the road, they don’t have any chance of winning on the road in this series. Portland was able to keep the first game competitive, so they should’ve had some confidence going into this game. Knowing that Durant wasn’t going to play should’ve made life easier, but the Trail Blazers fell flat on their faces. The star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were incredible in game one, and they were incredibly bad in game two. They combined for 23 points, which is basically how many points each scored by halftime of game one. The Trail Blazers need to win both games at home to have a chance of winning the series, but that looks extremely unlikely. Damian Lillard’s prediction of winning the series in six games looks foolish now. They’ll probably end up getting swept. These two teams will play game three on Saturday in Portland.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: The Hawks and Wizards will play game two of this series in Washington before heading to Atlanta. The Wizards were able to win game one at home thanks to a dominating third quarter. The Wizards are the favorites in this series, and are the much more talented team. John Wall was the best player on the floor in game one, and should be able to dominate again against a Hawks team that doesn’t have an elite defender to slow him down. This isn’t a must-win game for either team, but whatever team wins this game will have the advantage in the series before heading to Atlanta.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: After a dominating win in game one, the Rockets will try to keep the home-court advantage in this series before heading to Oklahoma City. The Thunder were completely outclassed in the first game. Russell Westbrook was outplayed by fellow MVP candidate James Harden, and the Rockets’ supporting cast outplayed the Thunder’s supporting cast. Westbrook is the star of the Thunder, and he doesn’t have much help surrounding him. He’ll need a herculean performance if they want to even the series before heading home to Oklahoma City.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors: The Warriors look to take a 2-0 series lead before heading on the road to Portland. The Trail Blazers kept the game close through three quarters due to their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Trail Blazers’ stars were dominant all game, but they didn’t get any help from their supporting cast. The Warriors have a lot more depth than the Trail Blazers, and got contributions from everyone that stepped on the floor. Draymond Green was the best player in game one, dominating on both ends of the floor. Kevin Durant is probably going to miss this game, which will give the Trail Blazers a better chance of winning. But even without Durant, the Warriors are one of the best teams in the NBA. With Durant’s injury, this becomes a must-win game for the Trail Blazers. If they cannot win this game, they don’t have a chance of winning any games in Golden State (and therefore can’t win the series because they don’t have the home-court advantage). The Trail Blazers need to even up this series otherwise they’ll make Damian Lillard’s prediction of winning in six games look like a bad joke.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 114-107: The Wizards and Hawks played a tight game until the third quarter when the Wizards pulled away. All five starters for the Wizards were in double figures, which was a common theme this year. The Wizards’ starters played more minutes than any starting unit in the NBA. Teams typically play their bench less minutes in the playoffs, which should be an advantage for the top-heavy Wizards. But they could get worn out if their bench doesn’t give them any help. John Wall was the star of the game with 32 points and 14 assists. The Hawks’ starters didn’t play well enough to give them a chance. Their bench outplayed the Wizards’ bench, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to make a big enough impact on the game. These two teams will play game two on Wednesday in Washington.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 121-109: The Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Trail Blazers in game one at home. The game was incredibly close through three quarters because of the scoring output of the Trail Blazers’ backcourt. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 75 of Portland’s 109 points, but that wasn’t enough to defeat the heavily favored Warriors. Draymond Green was phenomenal on both ends of the floor. He had 19 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 blocks, and 3 steals. The Warriors have too much firepower for McCollum and Lillard to beat them singlehandedly. The Trail Blazers need other players to step up. If Jusuf Nurkic isn’t able to return during this series, the Blazers could be in serious trouble. Game two will be played on Wednesday in Golden State.
Chicago Bulls defeat Boston Celtics 106-102: The Chicago Bulls pulled off the upset on the road in game one of this series. The Bulls have the best player in the series in Jimmy Butler, who went off for thirty points. The Bulls also have two former champions in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo who can provide valuable leadership. Bobby Portis was a major contributor off the bench with 19 points. Isaiah Thomas played a fantastic game just one day after the tragic death of his younger sister. Nobody knew if he would play going into the game, and nobody would’ve blamed him if he decided to sit the game out. Instead, he battle hard and led his team with 33 points. But the Celtics didn’t get enough of a contribution from the other starters. These two teams will play game two on Tuesday in Boston.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 118-87: In the game that most NBA fans looked forward to more than any other playoff game, the Rockets dominated the Thunder in a game that wasn’t close after halftime. If this game was the deciding factor on who should win the MVP award (which it won’t be), James Harden would be walking away with the trophy. Russell Westbrook had a nice game with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists, but that isn’t up to the level he played at during the season. He also had 9 turnovers and was forcing up bad shots at times. James Harden scored a game-high 37 points, to go along with his 9 assists and 7 rebounds. His teammates also gave him more help than Westbrook’s teammates, which was a common theme throughout the season. Harden’s Rockets are a more talented team, which is why they are favored in this series. Russell Westbrook has to do everything for the Thunder if they want to win, which is something that he’s capable of doing at times. These teams will play game two on Wednesday in Houston.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: The Hawks and Wizards will meet in Washington for game one of this first round playoff series. The Hawks are one of the hottest teams in the NBA during the last few weeks of the season, which could give them confidence heading into this series. The Wizards struggled a bit during the regular season’s last month, but are the more talented team in this matchup. The Wizards played their starters more than any team in the league, which could lead to them being worn out during this postseason run. Their bench is an issue, but teams typically play their bench fewer minutes in the playoffs. They definitely have the talent advantage over the Hawks, but Atlanta has enough firepower to keep the series close. Game one will be crucial in both teams’ efforts to advance to the second round.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors: The Trail Blazers and Warriors will meet in Golden State for game one of this first round playoff series. The Trail Blazers are one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs. They are led by the duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. This backcourt is as talented as any in the NBA. After the addition of center Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers started playing up to their potential. Nurkic suffered an injury and may miss the series, which could be detrimental to their chances of pulling off the upset over the heavily favored Warriors. Golden State didn’t win as many games as last season, but they are a much more talented team because of the addition of superstar Kevin Durant. Lillard predicted the Trail Blazers would win the series in six games, so he’ll need to help his team pull off the upset in game one if he wants to make his prediction come true.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics: The Bulls and Celtics will meet in Boston for game one of this first round playoff series. The Celtics were able to take the number one seed after the Cleveland Cavaliers stopped trying to win during the last few games of the season. The Celtics have a lot of talent on both sides of the floor. Isaiah Thomas has been one of the best players in the league all season, and could take over the series if Chicago isn’t able to limit his impact. The Bulls are one of the most confusing teams in the league. They have the best player in this series in Jimmy Butler, and have playoff veterans in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls have the talent to beat the Celtics, but they’ve underachieved all season. This is an interesting 1-8 matchup, and it could be closer than most first round series that include the top seed.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: The Thunder and Rockets will meet in Houston for game one of this first round playoff series. This is a dream matchup for all fans of basketball. Not only are Russell Westbrook and James Harden competing for the MVP, but they’re facing each other in the first round of the playoffs. These two MVP candidates were once teammates, but they weren’t even the best player on that team. The Thunder have been led by Russell Westbrook’s historic season. The Rockets are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. Coach Mike D’Antoni brought his fast-paced style of basketball to Houston, and it has been run to perfection due to James Harden’s ability to adapt. He was a shooting guard before this season, but Harden has changed his game to become a point guard in D’Antoni’s system. These two teams are led by superstars, but Houston is the favorite because they have more talent around their superstar. This series will be must-see TV.
Toronto Raptors defeat Cleveland Cavaliers 98-83: The Cavaliers decided a few days ago that it is more important to rest their starters before the playoffs than try and compete for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The defending champion Cavaliers are confident that they can win a seven game series against the Celtics without home-court advantage. The last time these two teams played, the Cavaliers dominated the Celtics in Boston. It’s hard to bet against LeBron James, but the Cavaliers aren’t playing their best basketball heading into the postseason. This strategy will be questioned all offseason if the Cavaliers don’t make it back to the NBA Finals. Although this game was played by backups for both teams, this could be a potential second round playoff matchup. The Raptors are a much more dangerous team with the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. With the return of a healthy Kyle Lowry, this Raptors team has enough firepower to make an NBA Finals run.
Boston Celtics defeat Milwaukee Bucks 112-94: In a game that was a lot closer than the score suggests, the Boston Celtics were able to clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference by defeating the Bucks. This game was extremely close through three quarters before the Celtics were able to pull away in the fourth quarter. The Bucks were resting most of their starters including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. This game shouldn’t have been close, but it seemed like the Celtics were feeling the pressure of competing for the top seed. Since the Cavaliers lost, the Celtics would’ve been the number one seed even if they lost this game. If this is how the Celtics play under pressure, they may have a disappointing showing in the playoffs.
Miami Heat defeat Washington Wizards 110-102: The Miami Heat’s improbable season came to an end after a victory over the Wizards. The Heat needed either the Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls to lose in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs, but both of those teams won and clinched playoff berths. The Heat had one of the greatest endings to a season for a non-playoff team in NBA history. They had a ton of injuries and had one of the worst records in the NBA halfway through the season, but they never gave up. Coach Erik Spoelstra deserves a ton of credit for the way he led his team to the precipice of the playoffs. Although they came up short, this season proves Miami has a bright future ahead of them.
Indiana Pacers defeat Atlanta Hawks 104-86: The Indiana Pacers clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Hawks. The Pacers would’ve missed the playoffs if they lost this game. The Pacers have a great challenge ahead of them in the first round of the playoffs when they face the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Although LeBron has had the Pacers’ number in past postseason matchups, this year’s Cavaliers limped into the playoffs. The Pacers aren’t as big of a threat as they’ve been in year’s past, but they still have superstar Paul George leading the way. George looks like the pre-injury Paul George again, and that could be a major problem for the Cavaliers. The defending champions will be heavy favorites in this series, but you can’t sleep on a team with a superstar of Paul George’s caliber.
Playoff standings –
- Golden State Warriors
- San Antonio Spurs
- Houston Rockets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Utah Jazz
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Boston Celtics
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Toronto Raptors
- Washington Wizards
- Atlanta Hawks
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Indiana Pacers
- Chicago Bulls
All non-playoff teams: Fans of non-playoff teams should watch their team’s season finale. This will be the last time to watch your team until next season.
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers: Although this is an extremely important game for the Cavaliers, there is a good chance that they will rest their starters. The Cavaliers are in second place in the Eastern Conference and are just one game behind the Boston Celtics. They rested LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in their last game, which cost them the top seed in the playoffs. The Cavaliers seem to care more about resting their players than getting the top seed. The Cavaliers destroyed the Celtics in Boston the last time they played, so they might not be worried about beating the Celtics on the road in the playoffs. This strategy is extremely risky and may come back to bite them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics are currently one game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. With Milwaukee already locking up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, there’s a good chance the Bucks will rest their starters including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. This could help the Celtics clinch home-court advantage.
Washington Wizards at Miami Heat: This game is a must-win for the Miami Heat. They are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with the eighth seeded Chicago Bulls, but they don’t own the tiebreaker. They are one game behind the seventh seeded Indiana Pacers, but in this case they own the tiebreaker over Indiana. If the Heat lose to the Wizards, their valiant effort to get back into postseason contention will be wasted. There are multiple scenarios that could lead to the Heat making the playoffs. If the Heat and Pacers win and Bulls lose, the Pacers and Heat will be the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively. If the Heat and Bulls win and Pacers lose, the Bulls and Heat will be the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively. If all three teams win, the Heat will stay in ninth place and will miss the playoffs. The Heat must win and hope either the Bulls or Pacers lose.
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers: The Indiana Pacers control their own destiny. If the Pacers beat the Hawks, they will clinch the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Pacers lose, they could fall to eighth place if the Heat or Bulls win. The Pacers will miss the playoffs if they lose and both the Heat and Bulls win. If all three teams win or lose, the playoff standings will remain the same. The Hawks have already clinched the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and may decide to sit their starters. This would be an enormous help for the Pacers. Indiana cannot focus on all the potential playoff scenarios, they just need to focus on themselves and beat the Hawks to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Charlotte Hornets 103-76: The Atlanta Hawks locked up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Hornets. They have a one game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks and own the tiebreaker, so they may sit their starters in their season finale. The Hawks will face the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks and Wizards are trending in the opposite directions as of late, but that shouldn’t matter once the playoffs begin. Washington has struggled recently, but they have the more talented team and home-court advantage over the Hawks. The winner of this series will face the top seed in the Eastern Conference (unless the eighth seed pulls an upset), which will likely be the Boston Celtics.
Los Angeles Lakers defeat New Orleans Pelicans 108-96 AND Sacramento Kings defeat Phoenix Suns 129-104: With all four of these teams out of playoff contention, these two games had teams that should have been trying to lose. The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns were competing for the worst record in the Western Conference. Although the Brooklyn Nets have the worst record in the NBA (and their pick will go to the Boston Celtics), the Suns and Lakers were the two teams with the possibility of having the second worst record. This would give them the second highest chance of winning the NBA draft lottery. With the Suns losing and Lakers winning, the Suns locked up the second worst record in the NBA. If the Lakers pick falls outside the top three, the pick will belong to the Philadelphia 76ers. Because they could lose their pick, the Lakers should have been trying to lose every game down the stretch. But their victory over the Pelicans is their fifth straight win. The Lakers are losing by winning. They can’t even tank right. This winning streak could come back to bite them if they lose their pick to the Sixers.
Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks: This is an important game for the Atlanta Hawks. They are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a half game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks. They control their own destiny from here on out. If the Hawks win their final two games, they’ll be locked in as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Charlotte Hornets are a talented team that had playoff aspirations before the season started, but they failed to live up to the hype. Although they will not be playing in the postseason, they still have enough talent to knock off the Hawks. This is a game the Hawks cannot afford to lose.
New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers AND Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings: Although all four of these teams have been eliminated from playoff contention, this is an important game for both the Suns and Lakers. Both teams have struggled this season and have shut down some key players in an attempt to improve their draft stocks. Although this should help them in their tanking efforts, the Lakers and Suns are both going into today’s game on a winning streak. The Lakers have won four straight games and the Suns have won two straight games. The Suns are currently 1.5 games behind (or ahead in the tanking standings) the Lakers with the game in Sacramento being their season finale. If the Lakers pick falls outside the top three, it will be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers should be doing everything possible to lose games and keep their pick, but have struggled to struggle as of late. They can’t even tank right, which should concern Lakers fans. Although the draft has a lottery system that tries to mitigate the effects of tanking, there’s no reason why the Lakers should try and win their last two games of the season.
Sergio!!!!!! Sergio Garcia finally got the monkey off his back and won a major for the first time in his career. Although it looked as though Sergio may have once again blown his chance when he missed an easy put to win on the 18th hole, he was able to keep his composure and win on the first playoff hole against Justin Rose. Sergio had back-to-back bogies on the 10th and 11th holes and hit a terrible shot to start the 12th hole before miraculously saving par. These three holes put him two shots behind Rose, but he was able to tie him heading into the last hole after Rose bogeyed on 17. Sergio missed an easy put on 18 that would have won him his first career major, but that didn’t end up haunting him. Garcia was able to birdie the first playoff hole to win his first major. Sergio Garcia will no longer have to deal with the label of being one of the world’s greatest golfers without a major.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Cleveland Cavaliers 126-125 (OT): What a game! The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to struggle heading towards postseason play. They blew a 26 point 4th quarter lead in shocking fashion. Although there were a few questionable calls down the stretch that helped Atlanta send the game into overtime, the Cavaliers shouldn’t have let the game get that close in the first place. The Cavaliers are now tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference with two games remaining. The Cavaliers still control their own destiny because they own the tiebreaker over Boston. The Hawks are still in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Oklahoma City Thunder defeat Denver Nuggets 106-105: Again, what a game! Russell Westbrook recorded his record breaking 42nd triple double of the season in dramatic fashion. Westbrook had 16 rebounds and 10 assists to go along with a game high 50 points. He broke the hearts of Nuggets fans by hitting a deep three at the buzzer to win the game. This loss knocked the Nuggets out of contention for the Western Conference’s last spot in the playoffs. The Portland Trail Blazers will be the eighth seed and will face the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
Sunday’s final round at The Masters should be must-see TV. Will this finally be the major that puts Sergio Garcia over the hump? He’s been one of the world’s best golfers for years but hasn’t been able to shake the major curse. Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth are hot on his heels after both posted back-to-back solid rounds. Sunday’s action should be full of high-pressure moments, and we’ll all be on the edge of our seats wondering who will crack under the pressure.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks (NBATV): This Eastern Conference battle between the Cavaliers and Hawks has major playoff implications. The Cavaliers are currently in first place with a half game lead over the Boston Celtics. The Hawks are in fifth place with a half game lead over the sixth seeded Milwaukee Bucks. With both teams’ recent struggles, the Hawks and Cavaliers want to get some momentum heading into the postseason.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets: This game is extremely important for the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder already clinched the sixth seed in the Western Conference and will face the third seeded Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Russell Westbrook is going for his record breaking 42nd triple-double this season against a Nuggets team that needs to win. The Nuggets are in ninth place in the Western Conference with three games left on their schedule. They are 1.5 games behind the eighth seeded Portland Trail Blazers. If the Nuggets lose this game, they can kiss their playoff dreams goodbye.