A massive weekend full of crucial matchups finished up on Sunday with the Miami Heat extending their winning streak to 18 games with a win over the Indiana Pacers.
Over the last three days, more has happened to shake up the NBA playoff race than we’ve seen in the past two months. The Los Angeles Lakers have moved into the eight seed in the Western Conference, the Atlanta Hawks have slipped into the seven seed in the East and just about every seed south of the two spot has seen at least a mild shakeup in the last 72 hours.
The New York Knicks may have lost Amar’e Stoudemire for the remainder of the regular season, but the team reacted with a big win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday that would prove even more crucial with the Lakers win on Sunday and the Pacers loss. Utah is now a half game out of a playoff spot and the Knicks have a half game lead over Indiana for the two seed in the East.
Atlanta suffered a rough weekend, losing to Boston on Friday allowing the Celtics to move past them in the standings and falling to Brooklyn on Saturday to make the gap between them and a possible four seed larger. With the Celtics in the midst of a revival and the Bulls preparing for the return of Derrick Rose, staying in a decent position in the Eastern Conference isn’t going to get easier for Atlanta.
The Memphis Grizzlies moved past the Los Angeles Clippers for the three seed in the West on winning percentage alone for a few hours, but they’ll look to officially do that when the two sides meet this week. Any chance they can avoid facing the increasingly dangerous Denver Nuggets, they’ll take it. George Karl’s team extended its winning streak to eight games this weekend and is proving a nightmare of a matchup to face on the road with a 28-3 home record.
With teams on the cusp of making a run and others barely clinging to a playoff spot, there is no shortage of intense games on tap for this week. The four seed and the seven seed in the Eastern Conference are separated by just two and a half games, while the Western Conference eight seed and six seed are separated by just two games. The difference in a playoff opponent is massive and the games on deck for this week will undoubtedly have an effect on the standings. Here are five games this week that you just can’t miss due to their postseason implications.
- Tonight on NBAtv: Oklahoma City at San Antonio 8:30 p.m. EST
The top spot in the Western Conference is said to be up for grabs given the absence of Tony Parker, but we’ll find out for sure tonight when Kevin Durant and company travel to San Antonio standing just one game behind in the standings. If the Thunder can pull out a victory, the West will have seen the most significant shakeup we’ve seen all year in just seven days.
Look for Russell Westbrook to try to takeover given the mismatch he’ll have in front of him. Meanwhile, San Antonio will lean heavily on Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in trying to overthrow the defending conference champs. It promises to be one of the most intense and entertaining Monday night games of the season and could affect the top spot in the conference, if not the league.
- Tuesday on NBAtv: Atlanta at Miami at 7:30 p.m. EST
Atlanta is struggling to keep afloat as they approach what could be their final postseason with Josh Smith and Al Horford playing together. The Hawks sat in the four seed just a few weeks ago, but now sit 2.5 games adrift in seventh place heading into Tuesday’s game against the red hot Heat.
Miami leads the season series 3-0 and can take another step toward sealing a division title and top seed by sweeping the season series against Atlanta. The Hawks, on the other hand, desperately need to right the ship just to stave off the Milwaukee Bucks who are currently two games back in the eight seed. If they don’t, they’ll have to face Miami in the postseason and face another possible sweep.
- Wednesday on ESPN: New York at Denver 10:30 p.m. EST
The Knicks are pushing to seal up the two seed over the Indiana Pacers while the Denver Nuggets are pushing for the four seed and crucial home court advantage in the West. This game has all the implications you could imagine and as the action unfolds, Memphis will be traveling to Los Angeles to face the Clippers meaning that Denver could move up with a win regardless of who wins the other game, but they’ll certainly have their hands full.
As if this game wasn’t entertaining enough as it stands, it could be Carmelo Anthony’s return from an injury and a chance for the Knicks star to play in front of his old crowd in the Mile High city. The Nuggets run the floor and score in the paint as well as anyone in the league while the Knicks pride themselves on their half court game and ability to defend. What more could you ask for a Wednesday night?
- Friday on League Pass: Los Angeles Lakers at Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m.
As the Lakers make a playoff push and look to work their way well above the .500 mark, beating a team like Indiana could be a big feather in the cap of Mike D’Antoni. The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Lakers one of the ten worst, so seeing who controls proceedings will be interesting.
If the Lakers can win, they could push into the seven seed if the Rockets lose to Minnesota, but the Pacers will be looking to recover from their loss to the Heat and re-establish themselves as the No. 2 seed in the East. While there are a handful of good matchups this Friday (Golden State vs Chicago and Memphis at Denver) this one will prove to be as entertaining as any game you could imagine.
- Sunday on League Pass: Golden State at Houston at 7 p.m.
These two teams are in a tight race for the No. 6 seed and a chance to avoid both San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the postseason. The Rockets are currently one game behind the Warriors in the standings, but that may change by week’s end and make this game a face-to-face matchup of two teams tied in the standings.
Houston owns the rights to the tiebreaker having already taken a 3-0 lead in the season series with one game remaining, but the Warriors would like to buy themselves a bit of padding in the standings and put the upstart Rockets in their place. Whether or not they can do it relies heavily on the health of David Lee and whether or not they can find an answer for James Harden who is averaging 21 points and 7 assists against them this year.