When the Phoenix Suns faced the Portland Trail Blazers, six staggering teams were directly affected. The No.1 Utah Jazz are watching their backs as Phoenix looks to take the field advantage, and the No.3 seed Los Angeles Clippers have a chance to catch the Suns if they lose in the minus two more games. Portland, meanwhile, is trying to fend off the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers for the No.5 seed, so with the huge implications of that battle in mind, let’s dive into the situation with three days. remaining on the slate.
The play-in plot thickens
The universe seems sorely wanting the Lakers and Clippers to fight in the most anticipated first-round series in NBA history. Coming in on Thursday, the two were separated on the medium, with the Lakers being No.7 and the Clippers No.3. Here’s the problem: Phoenix vs. Portland exhibited some sort of catch-22.
If the Suns had lost, they would have led the Clippers by just one game with two remaining. Considering that Phoenix had lost three of its last four games going into this game, it seemed entirely possible, especially if the Suns wanted to intentionally avoid the Lakers in the first round (a reasonable strategy considering how Anthony Davis played them down). dominated Sunday). In other words, it would have been quite possible that the Clippers had climbed to No.2 and are preparing for the Lakers. However, now that the Suns have won, the Lakers and Blazers are now tied in the loss column. Portland has the tiebreaker, but their last game of the season is against the Denver Nuggets. If they lost that game and the Lakers won their last two games against the Pacers and Pelicans, they would move up to No.6, hosting a No. 3 vs. No.6 first-round match. favorable result in this game in terms of avoiding a series of Lakers-Clippers in the first round. Phoenix’s victory, in some ways, made it more likely.
It also put the Blazers in a tough spot. Unlike the Lakers, they’re not set to welcome a four-time MVP to their roster again. If Portland is in the play-in, it’s DEFCON 1. Their season is up for grabs against opponents who are roughly at their level. Portland can avoid that by beating the Nuggets, but Denver still has a chance to move up to No.3, so they should still be playing against anyone who is healthy in this game.
Oh, and we should probably be talking about the basketball side of the equation here. It’s no secret that Terry Stotts is in the hot seat, and he might have made it difficult with his game handling in the fourth quarter. Drawn by one, this controversial foul sent Devin Booker to the free throw line with a chance to win the game.
This is where things get tricky for Stotts: he decided to dispute the fault. In a vacuum, it wasn’t a terrible decision. This is hardly a clear fault. The problem was, losing the challenge cost Portland their last time out, so when Phoenix regained the lead, Portland couldn’t get the ball forward or set up a game for Damian Lillard. The hindsight is 20-20, but if the Blazers do end up losing in the turn of the game, it’s a decision that will grab the attention of a coach already under a microscope.
History in Sacramento
The Sacramento Kings lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. It’s a phrase that has been typed in countless times over the past decade and a half, but tonight was a special occasion. The Grizzlies knocked the Kings out of the playoff challenge with the victory, making 2021 the 15th straight season the Kings have missed out on the playoffs. This equalizes the NBA record set by the Los Angeles Clippers 1977-91 for the longest in NBA history. Donald Sterling is never a business that an NBA team should want to keep. Let’s take a closer look at some of the weak points of this series:
- The Kings had 10 head coaches during the drought. George Karl made the NBA Finals in Seattle, but couldn’t make the playoffs in Sacramento. Mike Malone was fired by the Kings and now leads a contender in Denver. Dave Joerger gave them their best drought season, a very entertaining 39-43 campaign that maximized De’Aaron Fox by letting him run in transition. His reward? Pink briefs.
- Some notable draft decisions from this period: Tyreke Evans on Stephen Curry, Bismack Biyombo on Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker, Thomas Robinson on Damian Lillard, Ben McLemore on Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nik Stauskas on Zach LaVine, Willie Cauley-Stein on Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss on Domantas Sabonis, Marvin Bagley on Luka Doncic, and finally, let’s list Marvin Bagley on Luka Doncic a second time because it was absolutely inexplicable even for now. In 2015, they gave up an unprotected first-round pick and traded rights to another first-round pick to dump enough pay to sign Monta Ellis in free agency. Ellis declined their offer, apparently larger than Indiana’s at the time, but the Kings had already traded. The player chosen with the selection they traded with Philadelphia? Jayson Tatum. Suffice it to say there were plenty of opportunities to turn things around.
- Only one king made an All-Star Game during the drought: DeMarcus Cousins. Only three years before the start of the streak, the Kings had two All-Stars in a single season while Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic were both there.
We may never see a failure like this again in NBA history. You might even argue that it’s more embarrassing than the Clippers’ streak because the Clippers never got a chance to sneak in during the play-in round. Sacramento couldn’t even do that. Kings are on the right track at this point. Fox and Tyrese Haliburton will likely take them out of the lottery eventually. But for now? Gawk and marvel at this sequence whatever you want. Kings have earned it.
Philly can’t blow this up… can she?
The 76ers are as close to securing the field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs as a team can come. A victory or a loss for the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. That’s all it will take. They are so close. But they were so close last Sunday and they didn’t seal the deal. Now Joel Embiid is playing through non-COVID disease and the 76ers have lost their last two games. The Nets and Bucks continue to win. All the pressure is now on Philadelphia.
Now before you panic remember: planners are on the Philly side. Their last two games are both at home and against tanker Orlando Magic. The Sixers have the best home record in the East, and although he was compromised, Embiid played on Thursday. The magic also played. None of their starters scored more than 12 points.
It would be very, very difficult for the Sixers to botch the No.1 seed. He is waiting for them on a silver platter. But they cut it a bit more here. If Embiid isn’t feeling well this weekend, it’s not entirely out of the question that they fall to No.2 or 3. The Sixers will already be underdogs against Brooklyn or Milwaukee. Playing a Match 7 on the road against either would be a nightmare. They now have to take care of business against the Magic so they don’t have to face an extra road game in Brooklyn or Milwaukee later.