Ironing out the NBA Playoff Scenarios
by Matt Severance - 04/15/2009
It's Hard to believe it's the final night of the NBA's regular season on Wednesday, and you know what that means: A handful of games that matter, and a handful of scrub matchups.
Well, we're here to tell you which ones matter because betting on a bunch of backups is not worth your effort or money. Many lines are still in major flux as of this writing because of the uncertainty of lineups, etc.
--Raptors at Bulls: Toronto was eliminated weeks ago, but the Bulls still don't know their playoff seeding in the East. If they win, they get No. 6 and will face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs.
You won't hear anyone on the team say it, but know that the Bulls would much rather face the Magic than the Boston Celtics. That's what the East's seventh seed will get, and Chicago would slip there if it loses and the Philadelphia 76ers win at Cleveland tonight. Hard to imagine Chicago losing at home, where the Bulls have won 14 of their past 15 by an average of more than 12 points.
However, Toronto has won two of three this year in this series (2-1 ATS), including the last matchup (March 29 in Toronto) and the last one in the Windy City (Jan. 23, but Chicago had yet to make the big trade with the Kings).
--76ers at Cavaliers: The Sixers, as noted in the game above, need a win and a Chicago loss tonight to avoid Boston in the first round of the playoffs. That would be the same Boston that swept Philly 4-0 this year and beat them in the Sixers' home finale on Tuesday night without Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
And while Cleveland has a chance to match the 1985-86 Celtics for the NBA's best-ever home court record at 40-1 in a single season, it appears that LeBron James will be sitting out to rest for the playoffs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also likely will sit, with all the other regulars getting limited minutes.
"If (Coach) Mike (Brown) wants to rest some of the big guys -- myself, I'm going to sit out on Wednesday -- I'm all for that because [in] the playoffs -- you've got to be fresh," LeBron said to reporters.
Philly has lost six games in a row and all three to the Cavs this year. But tonight's Cavs team won't look at all familiar.
--Rockets at Mavericks: The West is a mess, with several scenarios still in play. Let's see if we can simplify it, but know that both of these teams have something to play for.
Houston can win the Southwest Division with a victory here and guarantee a spot no lower than No. 3 out West. If Houston wins and Denver loses to Portland, the Rockets would get the No. 2 seed behind the Lakers.
The Mavericks are currently slotted No. 7 in the West but would move up to No. 6 if they win tonight and the Hornets lose to the Spurs. And should Dallas win, the Rockets could fall all the way to No. 5 in the West if San Antonio and Portland win.
Got all that?
Houston is 2-1 (2-1 ATS) this year against the Mavs and won the lone meeting in Dallas.
--Hornets at Spurs: Apparently the New Orleans Hornets don't care whether they are a No. 6 or No. 7 seed because coach Byron Scott said that he probably will only play stars Chris Paul and David West about 15 minutes tonight, although center Tyson Chandler might finally return from injury and get on the floor for 15 or so minutes. Chandler hasn't played since March 16.
The Hornets finish sixth in the West with a win, but would still finish No. 6 with a loss and a Mavericks loss. A Dallas win and a New Orleans loss means the Hornets are at No. 7. As for the Spurs, if they win tonight, they need a Houston loss to win the Southwest Division and claim the No. 3 spot out West (note: San Antonio can't be No. 2 out West no matter what) and a first-round matchup with Dallas. A San Antonio loss means the No. 5 seed.
New Orleans is 2-1 (2-1 ATS) against San Antonio this year.
--Nuggets at Blazers: This one is probably the most complex of all. Let's start with the easiest first: Denver is No. 2 out West with a victory or a Houston loss in Dallas.
But a Nuggets loss could make things tricky. If Portland, Houston and San Antonio all win on Wednesday, there would be a four-way tie for the second-best record in the West. In that scenario, Houston would be No. 2, Denver No. 3, Portland No. 4 and San Antonio No. 5.
The Blazers can finish anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5. They are guaranteed no worse than No. 4 with a victory tonight. A Portland victory and losses by San Antonio and Houston gets the Blazers to No. 3. The multiple ways that Portland can finish No. 5 frankly will just make you dizzy, so let's skip that.
Portland is 1-2 (1-2 ATS) against Denver this year, with the one victory and cover coming at home.