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

9 Comments

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.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

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).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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.

Former Knicks, Warriors F David Lee announces retirement from NBA

AP
Leave a comment

One of the NBA’s more under appreciated forwards has announced his retirement from the NBA.

David Lee, who spent time in his career with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs, told the NBA world about his retirement via his Instagram page on Sunday.

Lee, 34, played last season with the Spurs. He averaged 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists for Gregg Popovich’s team.

Via Instagram:

Lee played 14 seasons in the NBA, the majority of which came with the Knicks. During his time in New York, Lee was seen as an unsung hero, nabbing rebounds and doing yeoman’s work from the power forward position.

The Knicks traded Lee to Golden State in the summer of 2010 for Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and two second round picks. He was part of the Warriors’ 2014-15 NBA Championship before eventually being traded to Boston in 2015.

Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks

Getty
Leave a comment

We were all waiting for supposed “good news” about injured Philadelpia 76ers guard and No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. And it looks like we’ve got it? It’s hard to tell with this one.

On Sunday, the Sixers announced that Fultz — suffering from a sore right shoulder — would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

That’s at least some kind of timeline, which is more than we got when Fultz was originally ruled out indefinitely at the end of October.

Here’s the announcement from the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

Fultz has reportedly been working out and shooting left handed, which one can only hope is adding to his dexterity.

No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

Getty Images
6 Comments

We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.