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.