Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Friday, April 4

Joe Flynn@@ChinaJoeFlynnContributor IApril 5, 2014

TORONTO, CANADA - April 4: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors drives against the Indiana Pacers on April 4, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
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A whopping 14 games were played in the NBA on Friday, April 4, meaning most of the league's playoff hopefuls had a chance to get some serious work done.

In the East, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers continued to play hot potato with the No. 1 overall seed. The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors strengthened their cases for home-court advantage in the first round with a pair of wins. The only big loser was the New York Knicks, who saw their fledgling hopes of staying in the postseason race crushed by their own late-game ineptitude.

In the West, the Houston Rockets took a major step in ensuring home court in the first round by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Meanwhile, the league's most exciting race—the three-team dance between the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies—continued to heat up, as all three clubs emerged victorious on the evening.


Eastern Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
New York33-44.4292022-25

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


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

Charlotte Bobcats: 100 percent*

Atlanta Hawks: 63.6 percent  

New York Knicks: 28.3 percent

Cleveland Cavaliers: 8.1 percent

*Have yet to clinch; would take a disaster to fall out of the top eight seeds


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


If Playoffs Started Today

Miami vs. Atlanta (Miami leads season series, 2-1)

Indiana vs. Charlotte (Indiana won season series, 2-1)

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

Chicago vs. Brooklyn (Chicago won season series, 2-1)


Western Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
San Antonio59-17.776-35-11
Oklahoma City55-20.7333.533-14
L.A. Clippers54-23.7015.533-14
Golden State47-29.6181227-19
New Orleans32-44.4212713-33
L.A. Lakers25-51.3293413-33

Clinched: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers


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

Houston Rockets: 100 percent*

Portland Trail Blazers: 100 percent*

Golden State Warriors: 100 percent*

Memphis Grizzlies: 85.4 percent

Dallas Mavericks: 69.2 percent

Phoenix Suns: 45.4 percent

*Have yet to clinch; would take a disaster to fall out of the top eight seeds


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. Dallas (Dallas won season series, 2-1)

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

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

Saturday's Schedule
Orlando MagicMinnesota Timberwolves7 p.m. ET
Washington WizardsChicago Bulls7 p.m. ET
Cleveland CavaliersCharlotte Bobcats7:30 p.m. ET
Detroit PistonsBoston Celtics7:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia 76ersBrooklyn Nets7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto RaptorsMilwaukee Bucks8:30 p.m. ET


Unanswered Questions 

1. Does anybody want the No. 1 seed in the East?

Either the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat will lock up the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, and the home-court advantage that comes with it. But neither team is playing like they particularly want that prize.

The Pacers lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games on Friday night, 102-94, to a Toronto Raptors team missing Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson.

After taking a 94-92 lead with 4:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Pacers went scoreless, shooting 0-of-7 from the floor to close the game. Friday was a reminder that, while the Pacers may have the league's top-ranked defense, a team still needs to score occasionally to win a basketball game.

As for Miami, it lost an absolute heartbreaker—a rip-roaring, double-overtime, 122-121 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Heat's noted ability to execute in the clutch has taken a hit this season, according to Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick:

If these two teams do, in fact, meet in the conference finals, perhaps the NBA should hold the game at a neutral site; neither team deserves home-court advantage with the way they've been playing of late.


2. Do the Knicks understand they don't have a draft pick?

In the modern NBA, draft picks and prudent future planning is often considered more valuable than an early playoff exit. That may have been what Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll had in mind when he casually brushed off the idea of his team grabbing the eighth seed in the East, per The New York Times' Mike Tierney: "I don’t think it’d be that big of a deal. Nobody expected us to be in the top eight. Our biggest thing is, don’t worry about the playoffs. It’s about building the system.”

Well, one eighth-seed contender did play like they weren't worried about the playoffs...and it wasn't the Hawks. Atlanta easily defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 117-98.

Meanwhile the New York Knicks—a team with no 2014 draft, and, therefore, no reason to want to land in the lottery—choked away a crucial game against the Washington Wizards, 90-89.

The final two possessions were everything that has been wrong with the Knicks this season. First, they allowed a wide-open jumper to Bradley Beal which put Washington ahead, and then they ran a game-ending offensive set which consisted of Carmelo Anthony ripping the ball away from Raymond Felton, bobbling it and J.R. Smith rushing a fadeaway 30-footer at the buzzer.

The difference between the Hawks and Knicks this season is that Atlanta has had an actual system in place all season, while New York has simply run around like a collection of headless chickens.

Phil Jackson, you've got some work to do this summer.


3. Can the Suns outplay their schedule?

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 4: Ish Smith #3 of the Phoenix Suns shoots against Robin Lopez #42 of the Portland Trail Blazers on April 4, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Cameron Browne/Getty Images

Of the three teams vying for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference—Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix—the Suns have the toughest remaining schedule. 

They traveled to Portland on Friday to face a suddenly rejuvenated Trail Blazers team that had won four in a row.

Well, if the Suns were intimidated, they certainly didn't play likely it. Phoenix ran Portland out of their own building with a 30-13 fourth quarter en route to a 109-93 win.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies and Mavericks defeated a pair of Western Conference scrubs (the Nuggets and Lakers), meaning Phoenix is still on the outside looking in.

The Suns will now have to negotiate a tricky three-game stretch—versus Oklahoma City, at New Orleans and at San Antonio—before playing what should be a season-defining two-game set against Dallas and Memphis.

But if the Suns continue to play like they did against Portland, they'll stand a chance against anyone.


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