Every night from here on out games will dramatically impact the playoffs — who gets in, who is on the outside looking in, and of course seedings. Let’s take a look at what’s on the line tonight.
Pacers at 76ers: Indiana is quietly one of the hottest teams going (won nine of last 10) but they are basically locked in as the three seed in the East. Philly, on the other hand, needs to play with some desperation — they are two games up on the Bucks for the 8 seed in the East (those two play next week). The Sixers are tied with the Knicks for the 7/8 right now, but the Knicks are playing well. Having won just two of their last eight the 76ers just need a few wins to keep the Bucks at bay. It doesn’t really matter if they get the Bulls or Heat in the first round, they just need to fight to stay in the dance.
Grizzlies at Timberwolves: The Grizzlies appear headed for the five seed out West, but a win keeps some pressure on the two Los Angeles teams ahead of them and would push Denver two games back of them at the six seed.
Celtics at Knicks: New York is not going to catch Boston for the Atlantic division crown, nor are they going to catch Orlando for the six seed (4.5 games back with 6 to play). But a win for New York keeps the Bucks well behind them (currently 2 games) and might get them the seven seed (if you would prefer the Heat over the Bulls in the first round). For Boston (locked in at the four seed) it’s all about home court in the first round — they will face Atlanta or Orlando to open the playoffs and right now all three of them are tied at 36-25.
Spurs at Lakers: Who is going to play in this game? Kobe is out, and on the middle night of a back-to-back-to-back who knows what lineups Gregg Popovich will throw out there (none of his big three played more than 13 minutes last night). The Spurs are in a virtual dead heat with Oklahoma City for the top spot in the West and home court up to the finals. The Lakers are one game up on the Clippers (two really, the Lakers have the tiebreaker) for the Pacific Division crown. Why that really matters — whoever comes in second between the Lakers and Clippers gets the red-hot Grizzlies in the first round. Nobody wants that.