It’s finally happened. The San Antonio Spurs are wallflowers at the NBA playoff party, at least for now. The Spurs haven’t been outside of the top-8 this late in the season since Tim Duncan invented the light bulb.
Houston, as expected, lit up the Spurs at home last night, sending Pop’s squad to its third straight defeat and eighth loss in ten games. The loss dropped them down three spots to 10th(!) in one night. Do they have enough time to make a late run if Kawhi Leonard comes back? How healthy/rusty will he be? These kinds of tough questions are new to the Spurs, whose incredible 20+ year run may be ending.
The other team that had its fate change quickly, but in the opposite direction, is Oklahoma City. Last night’s closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over the Kings catapulted them from the sixth seed to the fourth. Sorry, Pelicans and Timberwolves, that’s what you get for having the night off.
Oh, and Portland won yet again, this time over Miami. Damian Lillard is hitting his peak prime and Jusuf Nurkic was a beast in the paint with Hassan Whiteside out. The Blazers now own a 10-game winning streak.
There are seven West playoff hopefuls in action tonight but six of them are playing Eastern Conference teams. So here’s a ranking based on expected entertainment value for these seven matchups.
- Nuggets @ Lakers – The Lake Show keeps winning. Don’t look now, but they are just 6.5 games back of the 8-10 seeds! The playoffs aren’t happening for them but it’s been fun to watch the growth of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. Imagine if the Lakers had their own pick this season: they’d probably be joining the group of tankers and benching a lot of these guys. *Insert obligatory plea for Lottery reform here*. Anyway, the Nuggets are desperate for their mini win-streak to continue while the Lakers are more than desperate to shut down and shut up Jamal Murray. I mean, how dare he talk trash in an NBA game (/clutches pearls)! Get over it Lakers; the Nugs win a tight one at Staples, 120-115.
- Timberwolves @ Wizards – Despite winning the other night over the Warriors, the Wolves can’t afford to be satisfied. They can clearly see the Clips, Jazz, Nuggets and Spurs in their rearview. The Jimmy Butler injury might really end up being their undoing, that is, unless Karl-Anthony Towns continues to put them on his back the rest of the way. I’ll bet on KAT tonight: Wolves 107, Wizards 98.
- Pistons @ Jazz – Things haven’t been great for the Pistons since the Blake Griffin trade. They’ve lost 10 of 13, while the Jazz are on an absolute tear. I don’t see Blake & Co. stealing one in the altitude: Jazz 106, Pistons 89.
- Hornets @ Pelicans – The Pelicans are bad at home, just 17-24 on the year. Luckily, the Hornets are just bad. Dwight Howard has had a nice season, but he won’t be able to slow down Anthony Davis. Pelicans win, 119-108.
- Magic @ Spurs – I really want to call an upset here, but I’m really having trouble picking against the Spurs at home against a bad East team. Even though it is a back-to-back. I’ll reluctantly take San Antonio, 94-82.
- Thunder @ Hawks – Atlanta is in full tank mode, so congrats to them on another loss tonight. The Thunder hang onto the 4-seed for another day. Thunder 108, Hawks 80.
- Clippers @ Bulls – I could see Chicago winning this game if they gave a crap. But alas, they do not. Clippers 107, Bulls 101.
Picks record since March 5 – 20-10.