Playoff seeding roundup: Jazz win means playoff race will go to final games on final day

18 Comments

We’re going to be talking about who gets in the playoffs — and what seed they are going to be —down to the final games on the final day of the regular season.

It’s all because on Monday night the Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, the struggling Suns upset the Rockets, and Golden State defeated a shorthanded San Antonio team.

And that doesn’t even get into the battle between the Clippers and Grizzlies for home court in the first round.

Let me try to explain this simply (but stay with me, it’s not simple): The games you need to watch on Wednesday are the Lakers vs. Rockets; Grizzlies vs. Jazz; Clippers at Sacramento; and Golden State vs. Portland. Here are the possible outcomes:

• If the Lakers beat the Rockets Wednesday, the Lakers are in and the Jazz are out of the playoffs no matter what they do. Also, with a win the Lakers leapfrog the Rockets (Los Angeles would have the tiebreaker) — the Lakers would be the seven seed, Houston the eight, Golden State the six seed.

• If the Rockets beat the Lakers, then the Jazz can claim the eight seed by beating the Grizzlies. Also, if the Rockets win and Golden State loses to Portland the Rockets would become the six seed, the Warriors the seven seed, and the Lakers or Jazz the eight seed.

• Denver, with a hard-fought 112-111win over Milwaukee,  just needs to beat Phoenix Wednesday to be the three seed. The win over the Bucks Monday secured home court in the first round for Denver (they are 37-3 there on the season) but they don’t know who they will face. If the Clippers lose another game the Nuggets are the three seed.

• We do know the Memphis Grizzlies are locked into the five seed thanks to Denver’s win and the Clippers being a division winner (meaning they can be no lower than a four seed). However, Memphis could still have a better record than the Clippers and have home court in the first round against Los Angeles. To do that the Grizzlies need to beat the Jazz (if Utah loses they are eliminated from the playoffs) and the Clippers would need to split their two remaining games — Tuesday in Portland, and at Sacramento Wednesday. If the Clippers win both, they have home court.

So, we’re all clear now, right?

At least in the West the top is now locked in. So at least something got settled Monday.

Oklahoma City played Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook against the Sacramento Kings and the result was a 104-95 win that locked up the top seed for the Thunder. They have home court through the West (Miami would have home court if they meet in the NBA finals again). That means the Spurs are the two seed, locked in.

Out East there is only one question: Is Chicago or Atlanta the five seed and will face the Nets in the first round? The loser in that race is the six seed and gets Indiana.

Atlanta can hold the five seed if they beat Toronto on Tuesday and the Knicks on Wednesday. But lose one of those games, and then if the Bulls can beat the Wizards, then the Bulls would get the five seed — the two teams would be tied but the Bulls have the tiebreak having won the season series. I can promise you the Nets and Pacers each would rather take on the Hawks than the scrappy, hard-to-knock-off Bulls.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

1 Comment

There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

Getty Images
3 Comments

What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

Getty Images
1 Comment

We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.