Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Tuesday, April 8

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IApril 9, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 08:  Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks draws up a play during a timeout against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena on April 08, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 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 Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

Hey, welcome back! Did you really miss the NBA after a night of college basketball? So did we.

Quick, throw on this atrocious 1995 All-Star jersey!

As we were saying, the Association was back in action Tuesday. And while the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets gave us the only real nail-biter of the night—the Nets prevailed, 88-87, in a controversial finish—there were plenty of ancillary storylines. 

Dirk Nowitzki passed Oscar Robertson for 10th on the NBA's all-time scoring list, scoring 21 points to propel the Dallas Mavericks to an easy 95-83 win over the Utah Jazz. 

Next up on the list: Greg Kite, who scored 53,455 points over his 50-year NBA career. Just kidding. It's Hakeem Olajuwon

Elsewhere, the Detroit Pistons briefly put the Atlanta Hawks’ playoff hopes on hold with a surprising 102-95 road win behind Andre Drummond’s 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Meanwhile, a pair of Western Conference elites easily dispatched their floundering foes, with the Oklahoma City Thunder upending the Sacramento Kings (107-92) and the Houston Rockets bludgeoning the Los Angeles Lakers (145-130). No, it did not go seven overtimes.

Oh, and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-91, which doesn’t tell us anything other than the Wolves got a nice moral victory and I had to type another paragraph.

One week until the playoffs, folks! Who’s bringing the Funyuns?

Eastern Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
New York33-45.42320.522-26

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

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth, per Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds

Atlanta Hawks: 97.3 percent (magic number: 3)

New York Knicks: 2.6 percent (DNC)

Cleveland Cavaliers: 0.1 percent

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

DNC = Does not control own destiny

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

If Playoffs Started April 9

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 Antonio59-18.769-35-12
Oklahoma City56-21.7273.534-15
L.A. Clippers55-23.7055.534-14
Golden State48-29.6231228-19
New Orleans32-44.4212813-33
L.A. Lakers25-53.3213513-35

Clinched: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth, per Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds

Golden State Warriors: 100 percent* (magic number: 2)

Dallas Mavericks: 86.1 percent (magic number: 3)

Memphis Grizzlies: 59.3 percent (DNC)

Phoenix Suns: 54.6 percent (magic number: 4)

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

DNC = Does not control own destiny

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

If Playoffs Started April 9

San Antonio vs. Phoenix (San Antonio leads season series, 2-1)

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)

Wednesday's NBA Schedule
ClevelandDetroit7 p.m. ET
OrlandoBrooklyn7 p.m. ET
TorontoPhiladelphia7 p.m. ET
WashingtonCharlotte7 p.m. ET
AtlantaBoston7:30 p.m. ET
MilwaukeeIndiana8 p.m. ET
MemphisMiami8 p.m. ET
MinnesotaChicago8 p.m. ET
New OrleansPhoenix8 p.m. ET
DenverHouston9 p.m. ET
PortlandSacramento10 p.m. ET
L.A. ClippersOklahoma City10:30 p.m. ET

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 08:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat posts up Shaun Livingston #14 of the Brooklyn Nets during a game  at AmericanAirlines Arena on April 8, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Unanswered Questions

1. Should Miami try and avoid Brooklyn in Round 2?

Brooklyn’s steely win over Miami gives the Nets a perfect 4-0 regular-season record against the defending champs. That they’re  the only team to have done so almost goes without saying.

Miami was able to steal a second straight title last season, thanks in large part to having home-court advantage. Just ask the Spurs and Indiana Pacers, who both fell short in Game 7 on the Heat’s home floor.

It took all the Heat had—along with a little help from a rapidly unwinding Pacers squad—just to secure the No. 1 seed. But might it be worth avoiding Brooklyn?

If head coach Erik Spoelstra’s recent remarks to Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick are to be believed, the Heat are more concerned about finding rest on the margins than they are sitting players—either to relieve fatigue or influence seeding.

Spoelstra’s emphasis has instead been on “how long we practice, in terms of how many days in a row we practice, in terms of how long our shootarounds (are). That's where I have tweaked things a little bit,” believing such an approach matters “way more than minutes played and games. I think that's lost on a lot of people."

One thing’s for sure: Should the Heat play either the Spurs, Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers in the fnals, they’ll have to win at least one game on their enemy’s turf. With Indiana a fractured husk of its early-season self, Miami could opt to rest its starters for the remaining slate, forgo the No. 1 seed and thereby—in all likelihood—avoid a Round 2 matchup with Brooklyn.

Basketball purists would eschew such cynical dealings. But for a team with as many miles on its tread as this year’s Heat, a bit of strategic guile could go a long way.

Apr 2, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (right), and head coach Gregg Popovich (center), and Tim Duncan (left) talk on the bench during the second half against the Golden State Warriors at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 111-90

 2. Can too much rest be a bad thing?

We’re talking, of course, about the San Antonio Spurs, whose starters head coach Gregg Popovich is sure to keep a keenly trained eye on over the next week.

Indeed, no one player logged more than 27 minutes in Tuesday’s loss—a template, perhaps, for what’s to come. Popovich is famous for his decidedly hands-on approach to minutes-management, which, given the age of the team’s core, is wholly understandable.

With a 3.5-game cushion over the Thunder and no holy way possible for any East team to surpass them in the overall standings, San Antonio is sitting pretty—especially when you take last year’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Heat into account.

But fresh as his troops are off an 18-game win streak, Pop has to be careful about letting too much off the throttle. Finely tuned and expertly trained though the Spurs are, there’s a reason teams covet San Antonio’s unique end-of-season chemistry—there is such a thing as getting “hot at the right time.”

If this report by For the Win’s Chris Strauss is any kind of indication, however, Pop may have already made up his mind:

Getting the Spurs in position to win their fifth NBA title under his watch has to be the only goal here. If that means resting Duncan, Ginobili and Parker as much as possible in the team’s final seven games, he’s going to do it, streak or no streak. 

It might all end with tonight’s road game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who currently trail the Spurs by four games for the Western Conference lead. After Monday’s win over Indiana, Parker told the Indy Star that he thought Popovich would be happy if the team loses soon so he could ‘rest like half the team.’

Whatever Pop decides to do, he has our full, undying support, unless he starts five nacho vendors or something.

Matt York

3. Are we prepared for what’s about to happen with the No. 8 seed?

No. No we are not.

Try and follow along. Currently, the Memphis Grizzlies (No. 9) are a game behind the Phoenix Suns (No. 8), who in turn are a game behind the Mavs (No. 7).

All three of these teams will face one another in the final week. Dallas and Phoenix also both must play the Spurs, who may or may not be resting their starters (see question above). Meanwhile, one of Memphis’ final games—they have five left, the most of any of the final three—is against the Heat…who may or may not be resting their starters.

The Mavs and Grizz: They were supposed to be here, perennial playoff teams that they are. The Suns, on the other hand, are this year’s NBA darlings—a band of upstart rebels raging against the soft bigotry of very, very low expectations.

Something has to give. Let’s hope it’s not our spleens.


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