A look at where things stand in the NBA playoff picture, with seven days remaining in the regular season:
Frank Vogel had a good Wednesday.
Indiana’s coach gave his starters a day off, watched his backups beat Milwaukee, and climbed back atop the Eastern Conference standings. Next stop: Miami, which lost at Memphis and is now a half-game behind the Pacers. The East rivals play Friday night in Miami with the winner getting the inside track to the No. 1 seed on that side of the bracket.
Toronto and Chicago stayed tied in the race for No. 3 with victories, Charlotte passed Washington for No. 6 by topping the Wizards, Cleveland was eliminated by Atlanta’s win over Boston, Brooklyn essentially locked itself into No. 5 with its loss at Orlando, and New York’s chances got bleaker when the Hawks won.
Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers will almost certainly enter the playoffs seeded No. 2 and No. 3 in some order, meaning they’ll be on track to meet each other in the Western Conference semifinals. And the way those clubs went at each other Wednesday night served as a reminder that such a series could be outstanding.
The race for No. 4 got tighter, with Portland within 1 1/2 games of Houston. The Trail Blazers held on at the buzzer to beat Sacramento, while the Rockets lost to Denver. Memphis bolstered its hopes of getting into the playoffs by beating short-handed Miami, but the Grizzlies are still ninth out West – Phoenix remains a game up in the race for No. 8, thanks to its win over New Orleans.
San Antonio at Dallas: Spurs on brink of wrapping up No. 1 seed throughout NBA playoffs. Mavs still need to clinch their playoff ticket.
Denver at Golden State: Warriors scored a season-high 130 points on Sunday. Nuggets are no defensive juggernaut. Big chance for Golden State.
First-round matchups if the season ended Wednesday …
East: Indiana-Atlanta, Miami-Washington, Toronto-Charlotte, Chicago-Brooklyn.
West: San Antonio-Phoenix, Oklahoma City-Dallas, Clippers-Golden State, Houston-Portland.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s an empty feeling now that your chances are done. You think about things you could have done, you should have done.” – Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving, after the Cavs were officially eliminated from postseason consideration Wednesday night.
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