You’ve got nothing to do on Friday night. Sorry for reminding you, but you’re going to sit at home, turning on League Pass, and watch a bunch of basketball. It’s best knowing which games to pay attention to, and which ones to flip away from, as the playoffs near.
Washington at Orlando
The Wizards are snapping away – John Wall and coach Randy Wittman recently had an eventful back and forth after Wall took offense to Wittman’s assessment that his players “go through the motions,” meanwhile veteran Wiz forward Al Harrington published a lengthy (and quite moving, at times) discussion of his years-long recovery from knee injuries and a staff infection, calling out his former Magic team for a lack of professionalism, and chiding current Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan for a brusque description of Harrington’s career prospects. Orlando? They really don’t care much and just want to lose.
Playoff implications: Pretty big. The Wizards are tied with the Bobcats, looking to move up for the right not to play Miami or Indiana in the first round.
New York at Toronto
The Knicks will be playing for their season in Canada on Friday night, working for the first time this season with star forward Carmelo Anthony in its third meeting with the Raptors, attempting to stave off playoff elimination for yet another day. The Raptors, meanwhile, are attempting to win their second Atlantic Division title in the franchise’s 19-year history, hoping to circle the wagons defensively without beloved big man Amir Johnson.
Playoff implications: If it were October? Unexpectedly big. The Knicks could be out of the postseason with a loss and an Atlanta Hawks win, and the Raptors kind of want to rub a division title in their face.
Atlanta at Brooklyn
The Knicks should be the decided underdogs in Toronto on Friday night, which is good because Hawks will be an even bigger underdog while taking on a much-improved Brooklyn squad at the same time. The Nets are locked into the fifth seed out East and guard Shaun Livingston won’t play, but this might be enough to delay Atlanta’s playoff dream (assuming that is the dream) even longer.
Playoff implications: Rather large.
Indiana at Miami
It would be hard to overstate the importance of this game even if the Heat didn’t have a chance to take the lead in the Eastern Conference with a win, and even if the Pacers were still “safely” ahead in the East. Indiana’s ability to win away from home has long been in question, and those doubts hit a fever pitch in a place like Miami (even if a few members of the Heat have been suffering from flu-related fevers this week). The Pacers are coming off a noble-if-weird experiment, sitting all their starters in a win over Milwaukee, and the Heat are still playing without an injured Dwyane Wade, as he works on that worrying hamstring.
Playoff implications: As large as they come. No matter the context, both of these championship contenders want to get a few more licks in before the playoffs start, and steal a few more play calls.
Charlotte at Boston
Sort of a weird reversal of fortune, between these two, even if Boston currently isn’t anywhere near as bad as the Bobcats have been over the last few years and Charlotte isn’t anywhere near the heights that Boston enjoyed during the Kevin Garnett era. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford has done a remarkable job keeping his team’s head down and on point all season, and the team has won five straight while taking on some of the league’s worst down the stretch of the season’s final month. That shouldn’t figure to change against upcoming opponents like Boston and Philadelphia, and the Bobcats should have the sixth seed wrapped up by the time they take on Atlanta and Chicago to end the season.
Playoff implications: Sure.
Cleveland at Milwaukee
The Cavaliers were recently eliminated from the playoffs, while the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs sometime last summer when it was announced that general manager John Hammond would be returning for another year. I personally won’t be watching because I don’t want to see Luol Deng running around in a meaningless game before subsequently crying in front of my family.
Playoff implications: No.
Detroit at Chicago
Weirdly, Chicago’s current six-game winning streak is a season-high, and that’s not likely to change against a miserable Detroit Pistons squad that is probably playing its last few games with Joe Dumars in charge. Chicago has a chance to grab a coveted sixth seed if it keeps up its winning ways (the current third seed, Toronto, has won four straight), a chance to potentially miss Miami or Indiana in the second round, and a pairing with the depressing Pistons is a needed boon to those chances.
Playoff implications: Big enough, I suppose.
Houston at Minnesota
The Timberwolves are out of the playoff race, and Houston is just about locked into that fourth seed out West. The Rockets won’t be playing Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley tonight, and a hurting Kevin Love clearly was bothered by his hyper-extended right elbow in a loss on Wednesday to the Bulls. You could watch it to fete Rick Adelman, or maybe you could clean the top of your refrigerator you sicko.
Playoff implications: Nah.
Philadelphia at Memphis
The Grizzlies are a full game in back of Dallas and Phoenix, on the outside looking in of the Western playoff bracket, owning a tie-breaker over the Suns but coming out of the losing end in that regard against the Mavericks. A date with the miserable 76ers, who have lost 40 of 45 games, is exactly what the Grizzles need to stay afloat before taking on both the Suns and Mavericks next week.
Playoff implications: Technically yes, but these are the Sixers we’re talking about. If the Grizzlies lose tonight, Adam Silver should bar them from playoff contention both this year and next.
New Orleans at Oklahoma City
The Thunder are locked into both a division title and that second seed, and they’ll be taking on a Pelicans squad that is attempting to lose games by sitting various important players, but the Thunder want to get their reps in. They’re still trying to get things in healthy order, and with a white hot Russell Westbrook starting to round into shape, they can use the practice time on Friday.
Playoff implications: None, but the Thunder won’t treat it that way.
Phoenix at San Antonio
You’d think that those pathetic San Antonio Spurs would man up like the champions that they want to be (and massively failed at becoming last year against the Miami Heat as the Heat’s awesome fans cheered on), but instead these dorks are going to wuss out and sit Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on Friday night. This is even against Phoenix, who San Antonio could face in the first round in a week and a half. Sad. I thought this crew wanted to be remembered for its wins, but instead coach Gregg Punkovich is going to be known as the guy who runs scared any time he sees a team that makes him quake a little.
Playoff implications: (Still pretty massive, because bad jokes aside the Spurs have proven to be a damn good team even without Duncan and Parker, even if the seventh-seeded Suns are playing to stay in the playoff bracket. A loss and Grizzlies win could put the Suns back in the ninth seed.)
Portland at Utah
The Trail Blazers have thankfully rebounded a bit of late, winning six of seven, so their status as the West’s fifth seed is set in stone, though they’ve no reason to rest away in Utah on Friday. Still, by this time in the evening you might be getting a little sleepy.
Playoff implications: Sleepy
Golden State at Los Angeles
The Warriors should be embarrassed over their home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, getting battered on the boards and losing a chance to secure the sixth seed in the West, losing a game that they had established a 20-point lead in. Against most other lottery teams, we’d expect that the often-shaky Warriors could let things get to them, but even though the Lakers are attempting to establish a “Player Hater Ball” as their sad season winds down, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors letting another one slip.
Playoff implications: Right, Golden State?
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