Marc Gasol, Justin Hamilton, Ray Allen

Playoff chase: Suns season on line Monday night vs. Grizzlies


We know most of the teams in the playoffs at this point — only one final spot in the Western Conference is still up for grabs, but we have a lot of questions about who will play who in the first round still to be settled.

Monday night we may get a few answers, the biggest one about the last spot in the West — Memphis travels to Phoenix for a game and if the Grizzlies win they are in. If they lose the Western Conference is going to come down to the final games on Wednesday night (and the seeding in the West may anyway).

Here is where things stand heading into Monday night.


Seeds 1-3: The Spurs are locked in as the top seed in the West. So we know that for sure.

In theory the Clippers can catch the Thunder for the second seed but that would require the Thunder to lose their last two games and the Clippers to win out. Monday night Oklahoma City takes on New Orleans (a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and pretty much every other name you know) and if the Thunder win they are officially locked in as the two seed and the Clippers are locked in at three.

Seeds 4-5: After their dramatic win Sunday over Golden State the Trail Blazers are just half a game back of Houston (one in the loss column) for the four seed and home court in the first round of the playoffs. However, Houston has the tiebreaker over Portland so the Rockets magic number is just one to clinch home court — they play the Spurs on Monday night. Lose that game and the Rockets will need to beat a depleted New Orleans Wednesday to lock up home court (or they need the Trail Blazers to lose to the Clippers Wednesday).

Seeds 6-8: Golden State and Dallas are in the playoffs, but what seed they are remains in doubt as the Mavs are just half a game back of the Warriors for the six seed. Golden State’s magic number to lock up the six seed (and set up a first round showdown with the Clippers we all want to see) is just one — beat Minnesota Monday night and they are locked in.

Memphis at Phoenix is the big game of the night — it is literally a must win for the Suns. The only way Phoenix can make the playoffs is to beat the Grizzlies then hope the Mavericks beat the Griz Wednesday night (and the Suns would need to beat the Kings that night). A lot needs to go right for the Suns, but without a win tonight the dream is dead (and a 47-48 win team will miss the postseason, in the East that gets you home court in the first round).

If Memphis wins not only are they in they could climb as high as the six seed. If the Grizzlies beat the Suns and Mavs and the Warriors lose out Memphis climbs all the way to six (with Golden State seven and Dallas eight). If the Suns win Monday but Memphis beats Dallas Wednesday then the Grizzlies are the seven seed and Dallas the eight seed).


Seeds 1-2: With their dramatic win Sunday over Oklahoma City, the Pacers magic number to secure the top seed in the East is one — if Miami loses at Washington Monday the top two are set. If Miami wins Indiana will need to win at Orlando Wednesday to secure home court (or count on Miami to lose Wednesday).

Seeds 3-5: Toronto and Chicago are deadlocked for the three/four seed spots right now after the Bulls odd loss to the Knicks Sunday (are they trying to get the four seed and line up with the Pacers in the second round?). Both teams play Monday night in games they should win, the Raptors host the Bucks and the Bulls host the Magic. If both win it will all come down to Wednesday night for the seeding.

The Nets magic number is one to lock up the five seed, they can get that Tuesday against the Knicks.

Seeds 6-8: Nobody wants the seven seed and to draw Miami (or maybe Indiana) in the first round. Washington has a one game lead over the Bobcats for the six seed but the Bobcats have the tiebreaker. Both teams are in action Monday night — Washington will face a pissed off Miami team (after Sunday’s loss) while Charlotte faces Atlanta. If the Wizards lose and Charlotte wins the Bobcats become the seven seed and will control their own destiny but would need to beat the Bulls Wednesday to secure their spot. If the Wizards go 2-0 to close out the season (Miami then at Boston) they are the six seed and Charlotte the seven (and if the Nets lost out the Wizards could get the five seed, but don’t bet on that).

Atlanta is locked into the eight seed. So at least we know that for sure.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.