NBA Western Conference Playoffs Still Shrouded in Mystery

Red Shannon@@rojosportsFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2009

With just two nights remaining in the NBA regular-season schedule, teams are scrambling to review game tape and scouting reports for up to four different scenarios come playoff time.

In the wild Western Conference only one postseason matchup is close to being determined—the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Utah Jazz. A preview of that probable series unfolds Tuesday night as the Jazz visit the Lakers in their regular-season finale. However, a Utah win would further cloud the issue in regards to the Lakers' first round opponent.

In the event of a Laker win on Tuesday, playoff bracketing seeds two through seven will have to wait for the final buzzer on Wednesday night to be filled.

Are you confused yet?

The scheduling gnomes couldn't have concocted a more dramatic finish to the season. On the other hand, those gnomes couldn't have imagined the tangled web of confusing tie-breakers and formulas they set in motion for determining the final pairings.

For a comprehensive explanation of those possibilities, go here.

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Two things are certain as the final night of scheduled play approaches on Wednesday: eight Western Conference teams will still have meaningful playoff implications at stake, and all eyes will be watching the overhead big screen for conference up-dates.

Other notes

Let the violins weep

The Lakers have invoked the powers of the NBA to look into a pregame incident from last Friday's 106-98 loss in Portland. The Rose Garden video staff replayed on the giant overhead screen, Trevor Ariza's hard flagrant foul on Rudy Fernandez from a previous Laker loss on March 9.

Apparently Laker coach Phil Jackson (who was not even present at the recent game) thought the replay incited the Portland fans and caused Ariza to perform poorly. Indeed, Ariza finished with four points in 25 minutes of play and was roundly booed every time he touched the ball.

Fernandez, who was carted off the floor in a neck brace, on a stretcher, has since recovered.

Kobe wants Blazers

In a postgame interview, Kobe Bryant was asked if he'd like to play the Trail Blazers in the playoffs. His response..."F- - -ing love it! Absolutely!"

Critical officiating error brushed off

The Spurs were in Sacramento on Sunday. The score was tied 92-92 with three seconds left in the fourth quarter. San Antonio's Michael Finley launched an open three-pointer as time expired on the shot clock.

The basket was made but the ball was released a good half-second after the shot clock expired. This was confirmed by network TV replays.

The officials ruled the shot good and the Spurs went on to win. Apparently a shot clock violation, by rule, is non-reviewable. A Spurs loss would have changed the playoff landscape dramatically.