Playoff scenarios: The East is set, the West we need Stephen Hawking to explain

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Back East they have their act together. They’ve planned in advance and they know what they want to do for the playoffs.

Out West they have procrastinated. Always waiting to the last second. And the whole thing is complicated. Trigonometry complicated. Bring in Stephen Hawking and Brian Green to explain it complicated.

So we’ll start with the easy side.

Eastern Conference

Everything is set — these are your playoff matchups

No. 1 Chicago vs. No. 8 Indiana: Not much of a series here, the question is can Indiana even steal a game.

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 7: Philadelphia: Philly is capable of making this difficult for Miami — but the 76ers have to get healthy. Lou Williams’ hamstring and needs to be back at 100 percent, Andre Iguodala needs to get right. Elton Brand’s hand has to be better. And even if all those things do come together they probably win two games in the series.

No. 3 Boston vs. No. 6 New York: Boston is going to win this, but it could be entertaining. Boston limps into the playoffs while the Knicks are hot… but we got fooled by Boston limping into the playoffs last season. We won’t be fooled again. Boston is flawed but the Knicks are not the team to expose them.

No. 4 Orlando vs. No. 5 Atlanta: Orlando has dominated this matchup in recent years, but Atlanta is counting on Jason Collins to change that. Sure, that will work.

Western Conference

The easy part: San Antonio is the top seed.

Now it gets messy — ESPN’s John Hollinger says there are still 128 scenarios that could play out — and the West is going to go down to Wednesday night no matter what happens Tuesday….

Dallas, with their overtime win Monday, moves into second place in the West (56-25) by half a game over the Lakers, however, the Lakers still have the tiebreaker over Dallas and control their own destiny. Win out and Los Angeles the two seed. Which sounds simple enough except for that five-game losing streak.

For the Lakers they have to beat San Antonio Tuesday night. Now get Oliver Stone in here and let’s talk conspiracy — if the Lakers lose to the Spurs they will be tied with Oklahoma City for the three/four seed, and the team that is the four seed faces San Antonio in the second round. San Antonio wants to avoid the Lakers as long as possible. So don’t be shocked if the Spurs rest guys. However, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says that is not happening because the Bulls remain right on the Spurs heels for the best record overall. We’ll see who the Spurs give the big minutes to tonight.

That game will answer some questions but it’s still a mess. Suffice to say that the Lakers, Mavericks and Thunder all can basically finish anywhere from two to four seeds, and we will not know the answers until the games are over Wednesday night.

Denver is the five seed. That’s locked in.

The Portland/Memphis/New Orleans scenarios for seeds six, seven and eight make the Lakers/Mavericks/Thunder scenarios look simple. Honestly, I’m not even going to try and lay out all the possibilities because you have better things to do all day than read playoff scenarios

Tonight’s Portland vs. Memphis game is huge though. Portland wins and they are locked in at the six seed.  Memphis is currently the seven seed and that’s the spot nobody wants because it means the Lakers in the first round… unless the Lakers lose to the Spurs tonight, in which case it would be better to be the seven seed than the six seed…. Oh, and if Memphis beats Portland Tuesday and the Clippers Wednesday, then the Grizzlies will be the six seed. So Blazers/Grizzlies is a big game with big implications.

Just check back tomorrow and we’ll lay out the final night of the West and how it can all go down. For now, just enjoy Memphis vs. Portland. (We’d say enjoy Los Angeles versus San Antonio, too, but we sense a dud.)

Kobe Bryant says he didn’t even have NBA League Pass until a month ago (VIDEO)

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What has retired all-time NBA great Kobe Bryant been doing with his time? A little of this, a little of that. Apparently that doesn’t include watching non-national NBA games.

Speaking with ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Michael Smith on SC6, Bryant revealed that he went to go watch a little NBA while he was getting a workout in at his house and realized he didn’t have the NBA package hooked up on his cable.

Via Twitter:

I don’t know if I totally buy this. On one hand, Kobe is a busy guy and he did spend two decades living and breathing the NBA night in and night out. I would expect that after all that time he might want some kind of relief.

Then again, to think that Kobe doesn’t have multiple assistants that would have handled that sort of thing already is sort of silly. The only benefit here is Kobe trying to sell that he’s just relaxing and not paying attention to the league too much, which is hilarious.

Kobe, we all know who you are by now. You’re watching the league, man. You’re Kobe. We get it. You didn’t suddenly turn into The Dude.

Let’s just hope Kobe’s League Pass works right off the bat. We all know how much of a hassle it can be.

Damian Lillard dismisses playoff expectations as pressure, says it insults regular people

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The Portland Trail Blazers have had a disappointing season thus far. The team is just 34-38 before their game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and they’re battling it out for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs with the Denver Nuggets.

This comes as after expectations rose greatly following the 2015-16 campaign which saw the Blazers finish 44-38, good enough for the No. 5 spot in the West.

Portland has looked better after trading Mason Plumlee to Denver in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, but it might be too little too late. Meanwhile, team leader Damian Lillard isn’t bowing to the idea that last season’s good fortune raised the bar so much that it put undue pressure on his team.

Speaking with Sporting News, Lillard said he thinks the idea is really more about pressure vs. challenges.

Via SN:

Pressure, nah. Fam, this is just playing ball. Pressure is the homeless man, who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. Pressure is the single mom, who is trying to scuffle and pay her rent. We get paid a lot of money to play a game. Don’t get me wrong — there are challenges. But to call it pressure is almost an insult to regular people.

Look at the Wizards, they were kind of on the same wave as us. Didn’t even make the playoffs while we did. Now this year they’re the second-best team in the East. The adversity made them better. It can make us better, too. What I come from and my background made me who I am. As comfortable as I am with the good times, I’m also comfortable in adversity. Yeah, I might feel some type of way when somebody comes for me or says my name. But when it’s all said and done, it ain’t gonna rock me.

This is interesting to hear an NBA player say out loud. One, because I’m not sure I entirely believe it. You can have pressure without it having to be something that threatens your overall wellbeing.

Then again, maybe we’re arguing linguistics here. There’s definitely a different emotion from, say, trying to make sure you make rent and aren’t evicted to the street vs. trying to make the NBA playoffs. If one emotion is being defined as pressure, it makes sense to call the other a challenge.

It’s also interesting to hear an NBA player speak in those kinds of terms. There are a few guys around the league who seem to be relatively grounded and give out quotes like this from time-to-time. The absurdity of the NBA — playing games, making millions, and having folks worship you — would easily bend reality for most of us.

In any case, the challenge of making the playoffs for Portland is not going to be an easy one to overcome. Going into Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers, the Trail Blazers are a game behind Denver for the final spot.

Portland will face Denver on Tuesday, March 28 in perhaps their most important game of the season.

Kobe Bryant’s “Musecage” is like if Sesame Street had an NBA film room (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant’s video “Musecage” aired on ESPN on Sunday, and it’s one of the craziest things I’ve watched on an NBA broadcast. That includes watching Kobe’s own alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

Someone on Twitter called it a “drug-fueled Muppet nightmare” but that’s selling short how remarkable the video was. In it, Kobe delivered a message about finding motivation as a young basketball player alongside a talking “Lil’ Mamba” puppet.

But here’s where it gets good: this video was made true to Kobe’s own person. Despite the happy, glockenspiel-laden background music with puppet accompaniment, Kobe’s message in “Musecage” was to use the dark part of your psyche as motivation to conquer your enemies.

I’m dead serious.


It doesn’t get any more Kobe than that.

The first video ends with Kobe’s advice to Lil’ Mamba, who goes off to become strong by using the dark musings as his fuel. Meanwhile, the second video talks about — and I’m not kidding — tactics James Harden and Russell Westbrook use to defeat their opponents in the pick-and-roll.

It’s like if Sesame Street was also a film room session.

Needless to say, all 10 minutes of Musecage are incredible. I don’t mean that in any sarcastic way, either. Bryant has been working on his Canvas series for a while, and his message shines true to the person we’ve known for the last two decades.

Use your happy feelings to push yourself? No! Use self-doubt as a motivator to Jawface your way through to six championship rings.

He debuted the original episode on Christmas Day, and it too had a kid-friendly feel.

I literally cannot wait for the next edition in this series.

Mark Cuban on Blake Griffin’s fall vs. JJ Barea: “We sent flowers to his family, condolences”

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The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers got into a bit of a scuffle the other night during their game. Clippers big man Blake Griffn and Mavericks PG JJ Barea tussled, with Barea earning a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for putting his hands on Griffin’s neck and pushing him to the ground.

It really was a sight to see, whether Griffin flopped or not.

Meanwhile, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was asked about the incident and responded with some heavy sarcasm that feels par for the course.

Via Twitter:

Griffin does have a bit of a reputation for acting and flopping, and Barea is hilariously undersized compared to him. Then again, the throat is a vulnerable area. Who knows if the fall was real or fake?

I’m just glad Cuban has a sense of humor about it.