April 15, 2016, 2:45 pm
The season ended on a high note on Wednesday night and set the table for what looks to be a fantastic postseason. We will get into some of the highlights from the last night of the regular season and get you all geared up for the playoffs with some predictions. A lot of meaningless games were played in the NBA on this night but the ones that mattered as well as some of the ones that didn’t matter did not disappoint. Let’s start off by looking at the Eastern conference and then taking a look at the Western conference to see how the playoff pictures shaped up.
Eastern Conference Run to the Finish:
Hawks 98, Wizards 109
The Wizards rested most of their starters on this night and yet were still able to come away with a win. Ramon Sessions lead the way with 22 points, four rebounds and six assists and Nene Hilario finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Hawks had all their starters playing but could not get the job done. A win for the Hawks combined with a Heat loss would have locked up the third seed in the East for them as well as the division title. Unfortunately that did not occur as they couldn’t manage to beat the Wizards’ bench squad.
Heat 88, Celtics 98
It was a simple situation for the Miami Heat as a win would have ensured that they clinched the Southeast division and the third seed in the East. Things did not work out for them as planned though as the Celtics came through with a big win in their final regular season game. Isaiah Thomas and his 21 points propelled the Celtics to a win over the Heat.
Magic 103, Hornets 117
A Hornets win and a Celtics loss would have meant the Hornets got the fifth seed. Charlotte did their part by beating the Magic, led by a 26-point effort from Al Jefferson, but the Heat weren’t able to help them out in Boston. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing for the Hornets — with a first round win they would be facing the Raptors or Pacers in the second round instead of facing the Cavs.
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture:
Due to the results of these games the playoff picture shapes up as follows:
1 vs. 8: The Cavs will be playing the Pistons in Round 1.
My prediction: Cavs win this series at home in five games. Series MVP: LeBron James averages 30 points a game and scores over 40 in one of them.
2 vs. 7: The Raptors face off with the Pacers.
My prediction: This series is harder fought then one might think and the Raptors barely come out alive with a win in Game 7 at home. Series MVP: Kyle Lowry takes over averaging over 25 points a game
3 vs. 6: The Heat were still able to hold on to the third seed because of a Hawks loss and will be facing the Hornets in their first round tilt.
My prediction: The Hornets stun the Heat and take them out in seven games. Series MVP: Kemba Walker shocks the world and averages over 28 points a game on them.
4 vs. 5: The Hawks still manage to come away with home court advantage against the Celtics here but were probably hoping for a first round battle with the Hornets. Life will only get harder for either team after the first round as a second round matchup against the Cavs is almost a certainty.
My prediction: The Hawks win in 7 games in what turns out to be the best of the four first round playoff series. X-Factor: Kent Bazemore shines for the Hawks averaging 20 points a game.
The schedule for the Eastern Conference first round matchups can be seen right here in the link.
Western Conference Run to the Finish
Kings 81, Rockets 116
The Rockets had their fate in their own hands in this one as a win or a Jazz loss would ensure a playoff berth. It didn’t take long for the Rockets to take control as they ended up smashing the Kings’ bench squad. Led by James Harden’s 38 points the Rockets were able to lock up their ticket to the playoffs for a first round matchup with the Warriors.
Grizzlies 104, Warriors 125
With a win and a Mavericks loss the Grizzlies would have been able to take the sixth seed in the West to avoid the Spurs and take on the Thunder. That did not happen for them. The Warriors won their 73rd game of the season to break the record of 72 wins set by the 95-96 Bulls.
Jazz 96, Lakers 101
With the Jazz already eliminated due to the Rockets win, the only thing that remained to be seen was Kobe Bryant’s final game of his career. No one could have expected what would happen next as Kobe went on to give the people a vintage performance for his last hurrah. With plenty of celebrities in attendance in a sold out Staples Center, he lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 60 points (highlights of very basket that Kobe made are in the link).
In a night that was supposed to be a celebration for the Warriors and their attempt at making history it seemed that Kobe stole the spotlight and gave the people a memorable performance for one last time. You could not have scripted a better ending to a fantastic career for one of the all-time greats.
Western Conference Playoff Picture
1 vs. 8: The Warriors play the Rockets in Round 1.
My prediction: Warriors sweep the Rockets and win in four games. Series MVP: Stephen Curry puts up 35 points a game averaging six three-pointers.
2 vs. 7: The Spurs face the Grizzlies.
My prediction: The Spurs beat the injury-riddled Grizzlies in four games. Series MVP: Tony Parker puts on a show and averages over 20 points a game.
3 vs. 6: The Thunder play the Mavs.
My prediction: The Thunder win this series in six games as Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs put up a decent fight against the Thunder. Series MVP: Russell Westbrook goes off on the Mavs averaging a triple-double.
4 vs. 5: The Clippers play the Blazers in what should be an interesting and exciting matchup.
My prediction: The Clippers win this one in a hard fought seven game series. Series MVP: Blake Griffin returns to form and averages over 25 points a game.
The schedule for the Western Conference first round matchups can be seen in the link.
Aside from the predictions above there is one thing that is for certain — there will be more surprises than people think. Although I only have one lower seeded team coming out of the first round, you never know how it will go down.
February 18, 2020, 10:25 pmJohn Beilein, Cleveland Cavaliers
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, John Beilein is leaving as the Cavs’ coach and J.B. Bickerstaff will be elevated to head coach.
It’s still not official, but once Woj says it’s happening, it’s happening. A shake-up is likely to be a great thing for this roster that contains at least a few unhappy star players in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond. Be ready to act on any significant role changes that come with this move. For example, will Larry Nance Jr. and/or Kevin Porter Jr. take on expanded roles?
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 7:23 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
Terry Rozier (left knee soreness) practiced in full on Tuesday.
Rozier missed the Hornet's final game heading into the All-Star break, but it wasn't considered to be a long-term concern. Feel free to get Rozier back into all lineups ahead of Thursday's game against the Bulls.
Source: Rod Boone on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 7:18 pmDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Coach Terry Stotts said that he wouldn't put a timetable on when star point guard Damian Lillard (right groin strain) would return, but he is expected to be re-evaluated on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Lillard was given a timetable of 1-2 weeks last Wednesday, as the All-Star break came at an ideal time. Lillard has a shot to avoid any missed time if his re-evaluation shows progress, but owners should prepare for a scenario in which he misses a handful of games. The Blazers have five games remaining in February.
Source: NBC Sports
February 18, 2020, 7:12 pmDario SaricPF, Phoenix Suns
The Suns expect Dario Saric (left ankle) to be available to play against the Raptors on Friday.
James Jones said that he expects everyone outside ok Frank Kaminsky to be available for Friday's game, meaning Tyler Johnson will be out there as well. While Saric has been out, Mikal Bridges has seen his role expand while Kelly Oubre Jr. has played a lot of PF. Keep an eye on how the rotation shakes out now that the Suns are healthy shakes out.
Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 7:08 pmAron BaynesC, Phoenix Suns
James Jones said that he expects Aron Baynes (left hip soreness) to be available for Friday's game against the Raptors.
Baynes will be joining Deandre Ayton and the rest of the injured Suns' players in returning for this one. Baynes hasn't played in roughly a month and should be seeing a minimal role off the bench down the stretch. He can be left on the waiver wire unless something happens to Ayton.
Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 7:03 pmDeandre AytonC, Phoenix Suns
James Jones said that he expects Deandre Ayton (left ankle soreness) to be available to play against the Raptors on Friday.
Ayton missed a few games to close out the first half, but it looks like the second-year big man will be good to go when the Suns return to action. Ayton was putting up top-12/16 per-game value in 9/8 cat leagues in the 13 games before going down, and owners have to be ecstatic to get him back in their lineups. Cheick Diallo will revert to a deep reserve role.
Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 6:58 pmCody MartinPF, Charlotte Hornets
Cody Martin (concussion protocol) fully participated in Tuesday's practice session.
Martin found himself in the starting lineup before going down a few weeks ago, as he has started to earn a bigger role in coach James Borrego's rotation. With Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out of the picture, Martin should have a reasonably safe role for the second half of the season.
Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 6:49 pmClint CapelaC, Atlanta Hawks
Clint Capela (right heel) did not participate in Tuesday's practice.
Capela doesn't have a specific target date as he continues to fight the heel issue. With Capela out, Dewayne Dedmon will continue to absorb the bulk of minutes at C with Damian Jones backing him up. Over his past four games, Dedmon has averaged 8.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 3.8 blocks and 1.0 trey in 28.3 minutes per game.
Source: Chris Kirschner on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 6:43 pmOtto Porter Jr.SF, Chicago Bulls
Otto Porter Jr. (left foot fracture) returned to Bulls practice on Tuesday.
Porter added that he felt good and will return to game action when is 100 percent healthy. It was being reported earlier this week that Porter is eyeing a return before the end of the month, and this would be in line with that projection. It is unclear what type of minutes Porter can handle down the stretch, but his versatile skillset makes for an upside stash in fantasy circles.
Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter
February 18, 2020, 6:37 pmWendell Carter Jr.C, Chicago Bulls
Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) resumed practicing on Tuesday as he eyes a return to game action.
Carter is hopeful of playing when the Bulls return to action against the Hornets on Thursday. The Bulls may take a cautious approach and let him get in a few more practices before clearing him, but Carter's arrow is pointing straight up right now. If he is lingering on your league's waiver wire, go grab him.
Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter