Extra Pass: 2014 Eastern Conference’s last chance to avoid being the worst NBA conference ever

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In a packed slate of 14 games tonight, five of which feature both teams legitimately jockeying for playoff position, Timberwolves-Heat does not stand out.

But the seemingly innocuous game is the Eastern Conference’s best chance of beating a Western Conference team the rest of this season.

Just seven East-West games remain  this year:

  • Friday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami Heat
  • Saturday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic
  • Wednesday: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies
  • Wednesday: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
  • April 11: Philadelphia 76ers at Memphis Grizzlies
  • April 13: Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers
  • April 16: Detroit Pistons at Oklahoma City Thunder

The East must win three of those games to avoid being the worst the NBA’s worst conference ever as determined by record against the other other conference. Currently, the East is 163-280 against the West this season.

If the East wins two of the remaining games, it will tie its 2004 predecessor as the NBA’s worst conference ever. If the East wins zero or one, it will rank alone at the bottom.

A caveat: The NBA didn’t adopt conferences until 1971. Prior, the league had divisions that effectively served as conferences as we now them (only they weren’t subdivided into separate units, as divisions do to conferences today).

With the exception of 1950, there was an Eastern Division and Western Division between 1947 and 1970. In 1950, the league had three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) and held a round-robin playoffs.

Here are the win percentages of each conference – and before that, division – in NBA history:

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And here are the worst of the bunch:

1. 1960 Western Division: 42-102 (0.292)

2. 1950 Western Division: 50-114 (0.305)

3. 1948 Eastern Division: 31-65 (0.323)

4. 2004 Eastern Conference: 154-266 (0.367)

5. 1972 Eastern Conference: 125-215 (0.368)

6. 2014 Eastern Conference: 163-280 (0.368)

7. 1958 Western Division: 54-90 (0.375)

8. 1966 Western Division: 76-124 (0.380)

9. 2001 Eastern Conference: 161-259 (0.383)

10. 1968 Western Division: 98-154 (0.389)

So, the 2014 Eastern Conference can’t fall below a few old-timey Divisions, even with an 0-7 finish. But since the NBA’s major divisor became conferences, the 2014 East will go down as one of the worst of all-time.

The only remaining question is whether it will be the worst of all time.

Robin Lopez and T.J. Warren exchange contact, heated words (video)

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Robin Lopez whacked T.J. Warren in the head while chasing an offensive rebound. Warren didn’t like that, so he ran to the opposite end of the court and shoved Lopez to the floor. A heated confrontation ensued, though it didn’t escalate beyond yelling.

Warren received a flagrant foul, and Lopez was hit with a technical in the Suns’ 113-105 win over the Bulls.

Lakers blow 5-on-1 fastbreak (video)

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Corey Brewer is better at finishing fastbreaks than leading them.

Nice defense by Emmanuel Mudiay, too.

But at least the Lakers won.

Did Reggie Jackson distract Jimmy Butler into missing game-tying free throw? (video)

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With the Timberwolves trailing the Pistons by three and 6.2 seconds left, Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer.

Butler made the first two free throws then, just before he got the ball for the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit won 100-97 after an intentional foul.

Butler said Jackson didn’t affect him, but Butler’s side eye during the delay at least appeared to speak loudly.

Bulls’ Kris Dunn dunks on T.J. Warren after savvy/explosive halfcourt drive (video)

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Kris Dunn had a nice weekend – 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds as the Bulls beat the Hornets and lost to the Suns – punctuated by this dunk in Chicago’s 113-105 loss to the Suns last night.

T.J. Warren paid the price for Tyler Ulis overplaying a Robin Lopez screen Dunn cleverly never used.