Five days a week through the course of the NBA season, we have brought you five takeaways from the night before — letting you know what you missed and needed to know. But we are not people who spend our lives looking in the rear view mirror; we are optimists looking forward. Or at least we tell ourselves that. So from now through the end of the playoffs, we will preview the day and tell you what to look for that night around the league. Enjoy, fellow optimists.
1) Golden State goes for history and 73rd win. Golden State is going to beat Memphis Wednesday night to set a new NBA record for wins in a season, besting Jordan’s 1996 Bulls. The Warriors are going to do it as a big middle finger to anyone who thought their title last year was a fluke, who said they didn’t have to face the Spurs or Clippers last playoffs, who said they were lucky because every team they played was injured, and to Doc Rivers (even if he tried to walk his comments back). And they are going to do it for legacy, because that is where this team’s mindset is — they want to establish themselves with the All-Time greats.
Make no mistake, the Warriors will win. I am fully aware Memphis gave them a scare just two games ago in Memphis, but that is not happening in Oracle against a focused Golden State team a step away from history. Memphis still tries to grit and grind with Zach Randolph in the middle, but at this point they are basically pulling a guy out of the third row to play guard (due to injuries), and that’s not going to get it done on this night. Not against these Warriors and their quest for basketball immortality.
2) Kobe Bryant’s farewell to the NBA. The NBA without Kobe Bryant is going to seem strange next season. But we’re not there, yet. Kobe’s season-long farewell tour will come to an end with ceremonial sendoff at Staples Center (a building he helped christen) Wednesday night. I’d suggest going if you live in Los Angeles and happen to be in the one percent. This send off is all Lakers fans have had to look forward to in a 16-win season (save for watching Byron Scott stunt the development of D'Angelo Russell) and they will be plenty loud in expressing their love for the Mamba. It should be an emotional evening. As for the game itself, by the time it tips off (or not very long after) the Utah Jazz will know if they are playing for anything (they need a win and a Houston loss to make the playoffs). If not, they may roll over for Kobe.
3) East playoff seeds 3-6 hinge on Heat at Celtics. We know two Eastern Conference playoff matchups: Cavaliers vs. Pistons and Raptors vs. Pacers. But the middle of the conference is still unsettled with one game to play, and it will be interesting to see if teams jockey hard to get the 3 or 6 seed (and be on the opposite side of the bracket from Cleveland). The key game will be Miami at Boston — if the Heat win they are the three seed, or they get that spot if the Hawks lose to the Wizards (if the Heat win the Hawks are the four seed). If the Heat lose and the Hawks win, then Atlanta is the three seed, Boston is the four seed, and the Heat will fall to the fifth or sixth seed depending on if the Hornets can beat Orlando at home.
4) Bottom four seeds in the West playoffs remain wide open. We know this much about the Western Conference playoffs: the top four seeds in order are Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and the Los Angeles Clippers. After that, it’s still chaos. Let’s get the easy one out of the way, the eight seed: If Houston beats a Sacramento team resting virtually everyone, the Rockets get the final playoff spot (and the Warriors), but if the Rockets are upset, and Utah beats the Lakers they are in.
From there it gets complex. If Portland wins they get to be the five seed. If Portland loses and Dallas can beat the Spurs, then the Mavericks get the five seed. If Dallas loses to San Antonio, then Portland is the five seed and Memphis and Dallas will be the six and seven seeds depending on if Memphis can beat Golden State.
The practical reality is this: Memphis isn’t beating Golden State (see item No. 1 here) so they will be the seven seed. Portland and Dallas will be the five and six depending on if Portland can win, and if not if Dallas can win. See, simple.
5) Can Stephen Curry hit eight threes to get to 400 in a season? Curry is sitting on 392 threes this season — far and away a new NBA record — but can he get to the nice round number of 400? The idea he could hit eight threes in a game is entirely reasonable, especially against depleted Memphis. But the Warriors will go into this game prioritizing win number 73, and then getting Curry and the other core players some rest if they can get a big enough lead. Curry getting to 400 is an afterthought, but it certainly could happen.