San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

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


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.)

Wesley Matthews receives standing ovation in return to Portland (VIDEO)

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Last month, LaMarcus Aldridge returned to Portland for the first time as a member of the Spurs, and the reception was decidedly mixed. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night, when the Mavericks made their first trip to the Moda Center since Wesley Matthews signed a four-year, $70 million deal in Dallas in July. Matthews was beloved in Portland, and there’s a chance he and Aldridge would both still in town if Matthews hadn’t torn his Achilles in March, effectively ending their chances of contending.

76ers top Lakers for 1st win of season, snap 28-game skid

Robert Covington
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Kobe Bryant won over the fans – he just couldn’t beat the previously winless Philadelphia 76ers.

With the spotlight on Bryant during the final game of his career in his hometown, the Sixers stole the show and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 103-91 on Tuesday night for their first victory of the season.

The Sixers had lost their first 18 games, and 28 overall dating to last season – the longest losing streak in the history of major professional sports in the United States. But they remained tied for the worst start in NBA history with the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who also opened 0-18.

It was the first win for the Sixers since March 25 at Denver.

Hours earlier, Bryant felt the love in Philadelphia as soon as he entered the arena.

He took selfies with fans who might never see him play again, and his presence injected a playoff atmosphere into a city that has lost much of its interest in NBA basketball.

With a packed crowd standing and roaring in appreciation, Bryant was introduced to an ovation worthy of a hometown hero, not the “Hometown Zero” he was once labeled in Philadelphia’s tabloids.

Bryant, who will end his 20-year career this season, opened the first leg of his farewell tour in his hometown and was feted with the kind of reverence and gratitude normally reserved for a Sixers great.

He buried a step-back 3-pointer off the opening tip.

He hit another 3 on the next possession.

Bryant made it 3 for 3 and had the Philly crowd chanting “M-V-P!” as he turned back the clock to his championship form. He scored 20 points on 7-of-26 shooting and made four 3s.

By the fourth quarter, the Philly fans had turned their attention toward the home team, chanting “Beat LA!” when beleaguered rookie Jahlil Okafor made a layup for a 94-80 lead.

Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick out of Duke, has been attached to a string of off-court incidents that included reckless driving and a fight in Boston. He has apologized for his recent decisions. Sixers coach Brett Brown said Okafor will likely soon be accompanied by team security on public outings.

Bryant said he would simply tell the 19-year-old rookie to stay focused on basketball.

The Sixers stayed focused and finally finished the job after taking an 80-75 lead into the fourth.

The 76ers had led after three quarters three other times this season: Nov. 21 at Miami (led 74-67, lost 96-91), Nov. 25 at Boston (led 62-57, lost 84-80) and Nov. 29 at Memphis (led 67-64, lost 92-84), according to STATS.

Robert Covington scored 23 points and Jerami Grant had 14 for the Sixers.

The win belonged to Philadelphia. The night belonged to Bryant.

His homecoming game came with a rare emotional tug for the player fans loved to boo through the years. He waved to the crowd and bowed his head in appreciation as a “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!’ chant filled Wells Fargo Center during pregame introductions.

He was greeted at midcourt by his Lower Merion high school coach Gregg Downer and 76ers great Julius Erving. Bryant hugged both in front of a crowd filled with purple-and-gold No. 24 jerseys.

He smiled after every shot and bantered with fans, some who made “Thank you, Kobe” signs.

In a reference to the sorry state of the entire Philly sports scene, one fan held a sign that read, “Why Can’t Chip Kelly Retire Instead.”

Bryant even smirked in the third when a brief scuffle broke out among Lakers center Roy Hibbert, who appeared to push a referee, and Philadelphia’s Isaiah Canaan and JaKarr Sampson. All three were hit with technical fouls.

Bryant thumped his chest, waved to the fans, blew a kiss and was serenaded with “Kobe!” chants as he walked off Philadelphia’s court for the final time.


Lakers: Los Angeles is 2-15 and has the worst record in the Western Conference. … The Lakers opened an eight-game road trip.

Sixers: Moses Malone, the late 76ers star selected one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, was honored at halftime. Malone, who died in September at 60, was the NBA Finals MVP in 1983 when he led the Sixers to the title. His No. 2 was on the back of Philadelphia’s warmup jerseys with “Chairman of the Boards” on the front. The Sixers will retire his number next season. … F Nerlens Noel returned to the lineup after a two-game absence with sore knees. He scored 14 points.


Lakers: At the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Sixers: At the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

John Wall drops J.R. Smith with crossover, makes layup (VIDEO)

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John Wall is one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. J.R. Smith found that out the hard way on Tuesday night when Wall sent him flying with a behind-the-back dribble before making an easy layup.

The Wizards beat the Cavs, who are now 13-5 on the season.

Sixers to retire Moses Malone’s number next season

Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone

Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.

There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?