NBA Weekly Recap: Mar. 19
The NBA season is winding down as teams have just a handful of games left on their regular-season schedules. The playoff picture is getting clearer but most of the league remains in contention entering Saturday’s action.
The Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns are the only two teams to have clinched playoff spots as of now. Both teams sit in first place in their respective conferences.
Phoenix has found its way to the best record in the NBA at 57-14 and in doing so has built up a nine-game advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies.
After starting the season poorly, the Miami Heat find themselves with a 2.5 game cushion over the Milwaukee Bucks. Miami cannot sit comfortably atop the conference as three teams sit within four games from the top.
With the NBA Play-In Tournament returning for the second year, two extra teams from each conference will have the chance to get into the playoff field.
In the Eastern Conference, the four spots for the play-in are occupied by the Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets.
Toronto sits just one game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are in a position to not have to worry about the tournament.
The Brooklyn Nets have had their fortunes changed since the trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia and have made a late push back into the playoff picture.
Kyrie Irving, when able to play, has provided a huge spark for Brooklyn. Irving dropped 60 points against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. Irving is averaging 27.7 points per game on his campaign.
Brooklyn would not have a home-court advantage in the playoffs as of now, which could bode well for them as that would allow Kyrie Irving to play in a possible seventh game of a series.
The New York Knicks, who are five games behind Charlotte, have rebounded as of late, but as the season comes to an end it seems that it is too little too late for New York.
With a significant gap like that, the Eastern Conference playoff teams look set with just the order left to be decided.
The same cannot be said for the Western Conference as just one team, the Houston Rockets have been eliminated from contention. A lot of movement is left to happen in the West as teams sit very close to one another aside from Phoenix.
Currently sitting in third place is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have fallen in six of their last ten and were delivered a big blow this week when Steph Curry sprained a ligament in his foot. Curry is out indefinitely as Golden State could tumble down the standings.
Memphis will look to build a lead on Golden State behind the play of Ja Morant. Morant continues to shine for the Grizzlies and will look to help them secure the second seed.
Further down the standings, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans hold the play-in spots.
The Laker and Pelicans have both played themselves back into contention after being on the outside looking a few weeks ago.
Minnesota has surprised many this season behind the play of Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns exploded with 60 points and 17 rebounds in a win over the Spurs on Monday night.
Irving and Towns posted the first 60-point efforts since Jayson Tatum did so in April of last year.
Justin Ciavolella is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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