NBA

Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Saturday, March 29

New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan, right, and guards Marco Belinelli, left, of Italy, and Cory Joseph during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, March 29, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 96-80. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate
Joe FlynnContributor IMarch 30, 2014

While the highlight of Saturday night in the NBA might have been the Philadelphia 76ers breaking their record-tying 26-game losing streak, there was also some action among the league's upper class.

The San Antonio Spurs made a bit of history themselves, tying a franchise record with their 17th straight win.

In Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers overcame the loss of Blake Griffin (back spasms) to beat a Rockets team missing Patrick Beverley (knee) and Dwight Howard (ankle). The Clippers solidified their grasp on the No. 3 seed in the West, while the Rockets might be facing those red-hot Spurs in the second round.

The Atlanta Hawks, meanwhile, continue to prove that no team really deserves the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by losing their sixth game in a row.

 

Eastern Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
Indiana52-21.712-35-10
Miami49-22.6901.529-14
Toronto41-31.56910.526-17
Chicago40-32.55611.528-16
Brooklyn38-33.5351322-21
Washington38-35.5211426-16
Charlotte35-38.4791722-21
Atlanta31-41.43120.521-21
New York30-43.4172221-24
Cleveland29-45.39223.517-27
Detroit26-47.3562620-24
Boston23-49.31928.519-24
Orlando21-52.2883116-28
Philadelphia16-57.2193611-33
Milwaukee14-59.1923811-32
ESPN.com


Clinched:
 Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards

 

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth: (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds)

Charlotte Bobcats:  99.9 percent

Atlanta Hawks: 90.1 percent  

New York Knicks: 6.5 percent

Cleveland Cavaliers: 3.4 percent

Detroit Pistons: 0.2 percent

 

Eliminated from Contention: Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks

 

If Playoffs Started Today

Indiana vs. Atlanta (Indiana leads season series 2-1)

Miami vs. Charlotte (Miami won season series 4-0)

Toronto vs. Washington (Toronto won season series 3-1)

Chicago vs. Brooklyn (Chicago leads season series 2-1)

Western Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
San Antonio57-16.781-34-10
Oklahoma City52-19.7323.530-13
L.A. Clippers52-22.7035.531-13
Houston49-23.6817.526-18
Portland47-27.63510.524-20
Golden State45-27.62511.525-18
Phoenix44-29.6031324-19
Memphis43-29.59713.524-20
Dallas44-30.59513.524-20
Minnesota36-35.5072020-25
New Orleans32-41.4382513-30
Denver32-41.4382516-27
Sacramento25-48.3423212-31
L.A. Lakers24-48.33332.512-30
Utah23-50.3153411-33
ESPN.com

 

Clinched: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers, Houston Rockets
Still Fighting for Postseason Berth: (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds)

Portland Trail Blazers: 99.6 percent

Golden State Warriors: 99.6 percent

Memphis Grizzlies: 77.0 percent

Dallas Mavericks: 62.7 percent

Phoenix Suns: 61.0 percent

 

Eliminated from Contention: Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, L.A. Lakers, Utah Jazz

 

If Playoffs Started Today

San Antonio vs. Memphis (San Antonio leads season series 3-0)

Oklahoma City vs. Phoenix (season series tied 1-1)

L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State (season series tied 2-2)

Houston vs. Portland (Houston won season series 3-1)

 

Unanswered Questions

1. Are the Atlanta Hawks lucky or unlucky?

The Atlanta Hawks have been decimated by injury this season. First, they lost All-Star center Al Horford for the season, though they still managed to hang on in the lackluster Eastern Conference playoff race.

The additional loss of shooting guard Kyle Korver, however, has sent the team into a late-season tailspin. Saturday's 101-97 loss to the Washington Wizards was the team's sixth in a row. The Hawks appear to be a snakebitten team. 

Or are they? No matter how many games they lose, the Hawks might just hold onto the eighth seed. The teams behind them, the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, are just that bad. Despite its misfortune in the injury department, Atlanta might just back its way into the postseason.

Of course, general manager Danny Ferry does not appear satisfied with that eighth seed, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore:

Sorry, Mr. Ferry, but the eighth seed is about all your team is going to get this season. And they will be lucky to get it.

 

2. Is four greater than three?

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Houston Rockets, 118-107, in a game that held major implications in the Western Conference standings. Los Angeles came into Saturday one game up on Houston, but tied in the all-important loss column. Now, the Clippers are two games up in the race for the No. 3 seed.

But who is the real winner? As of Saturday, the Clippers are locked into a first-round date with the Golden State Warriors, who have played them tough this season. The Rockets, meanwhile, would play the Portland Trail Blazers, who were struggling mightily prior to winning their last two games.

Then there is the second round to consider. The Clippers would be matched up with the No. 2 seed Oklahoma City Thunder and MVP favorite Kevin Durant, while Houston would draw the No. 1 seed Spurs, winners of 17 straight.

While the Spurs might not have an MVP candidate, they are the most balanced team in the league at the moment. Per B/R's Andy Bailey: "During their 17-game win streak, the Spurs have nine players (yes, nine) averaging between 8.2 and 14.6 points. They also have eight players averaging at least two assists."

Talk about a classic case of "pick your poison."

 

3. Are the Dallas Mavericks playing with fire?

The Dallas Mavericks climbed into a virtual tie with the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies on the strength of Saturday's 103-100 win over the lowly Sacramento Kings.

But it did not come easy.

The Mavericks jumped out to a 17-point lead midway through the second quarter but let Sacramento climb back into the game with a 28-18 run in the third. The Kings actually held an 89-84 lead before a Jose Calderon three and some free throws from Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion put the Mavs ahead for good.

Dallas is already at a disadvantage against the Grizzlies, who have played two fewer games and have one fewer loss. The Mavs will play their final game of the season at Memphis.

In short, a team in such a precarious position can not afford to mess around with a downtrodden club like Sacramento.

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