The Pacers got an enormous win to pull even (though Brooklyn owns the tie-breaker) with the Nets for the eighth and final playoff spot. But OH MY RUSSELL WESTBROOK. If you missed the game, and you did unless you live in the local market or have NBA League Pass (and weren’t watching Jordan Spieth’s spectacular performance at Augusta), you missed an absolutely ridiculous display of epic basketball amazingness. Westbrook finished with 54 points, nine boards and eight assists – a line that would be absurd in NBA 2K, but alas the Fightin’ Westbrooks still fell on the road to the Pacers who are now 4-0 since the return of Paul George.
The ironic thing is that both these teams might wind up missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker. As of writing this, Houston and New Orleans are coming down the stretch, but either way OKC needs some help to make the postseason. Indiana might have gotten PG back a week too late, but IF IF IF they sneak past Brooklyn, do NOT sleep on the potential first round scare for the Hawks.
Just three days remain in the regular season and it should be one of the most dramatic regular season conclusions in recent memory. So let’s start the week off with a winner.
Today’s Free Pick:
Orlando Magic at Miami Heat -7.5
The Heat appear technically still be alive, but at two games behind the Pacers and Nets and owning the tie-breaker over only Brooklyn, they are eliminated. Even if the Pacers and Nets lose out it forces a three-way tie, and the final playoff spot would go to Indiana based on the conference record tertiary tie-breaker. SO… with that bit of news official, don’t expect the temperature to rise much for the Heat tonight in Miami. I can’t imagine Dwyane Wade plays significant minutes (or at all) and why rush Hassan Whiteside back into action after a nasty hand laceration? Add in Goran Dragic’s back issues and you could see a pretty D-League-like lineup tonight.
Meanwhile, the Magic have been plucky playing out the string, using the remainder of the season as nice time for their young core to play together and gain valuable experience. They’ve won three of their last five and covered four of five. It may be hard to remove the eyesore of their last outing; a 80-79 home loss to the Knicks that featured the lowest scoring quarter in NBA history (NBA Action – It’s Faaaaaan-tastic!) but this has been a pretty competitive squad.
Basically, the Magic will probably try and the Heat will basically, not. Sometimes you look for high-level analytics, and sometimes as the season winds down and teams begin the inevitable shut-down (Sacramento shut down Rudy Gay and Boogie Cousins…) you have to look for the less metric-driven opportunities.