Gilbert Arenas and Michael Redd played a game of "can you top this" last night, as the Wizards won an important game from the Bucks, 116-103. Both players wound up with 43 points but it was Arenas' Washington team that got the win, as the Wizards outscored the Bucks 29-13 to end the game. Washington (41-40) now has a chance to secure the East's fifth playoff seed by either winning tonight in Detroit or by having the Bulls lose at home tonight to the Raptors.
The Bucks could have clinched the fifth seed by beating the Wizards but will now have to wait until Wednesday night's results are known to see what their seed will be and which team they'll meet in the first round of the playoffs, which begin this weekend.
Milwaukee qualifies with a 40-42 mark and could be joined in this year's postseason by two more teams with losing records, as both Chicago and Indiana enter tonight's action at 40-41. Since the NBA expanded its playoff field to 16 teams for the 1983-84 season, sub-.500 playoff teams are not unusual. However, over the last 12 seasons, there have been just six teams to make the playoffs with records under .500. Two such teams qualified in 2004, three in 1997 and one in 1995.
Over in the West last night, the Grizzlies beat the Clippers (101-95) and the Kings beat the Sonics (111-105). One could hardly accuse the Clippers of "not trying," as they cut an 18-point deficit to just three down the stretch, before losing. However, the fact remains that the Clippers, who have lost five of their last seven, will get an easier first round playoff opponent than the Grizzlies, who beat them out for the West's fifth seed by winning seven of their final eight games!
Since the NBA adopted its two three-division conferences, the winners of each division get the top three seeds (regardless of W-L records) with the remaining spots being filled by teams with the next five-best records. With Dallas falling just short of San Antonio this year in the Southwest Division, the Mavs fall to the fourth seed, despite owning a better record than both Phoenix and Denver.
Memphis gets Dallas in the first round as the fifth seed and the Mavs, by virtue of their better record, will have the home court advantage. Meanwhile, the sixth-seeded Clippers draw the third-seeded Nuggets, who will actually finish with a worse record than either the Grizzlies or Clippers. So, not only do the Clippers get the easier first round opponent (than the Grizzlies), they also get home court advantage in the series. For fans of the Princess Bride, this is "INCONCEIVABLE!"
The Kings win over the Sonics give them a final record of 44-38. When Artest joined the team the Kings were just 18-24. They finished 26-14 over their final 40 games (a .650 winning percentage) and won 18 of their final 21 home games, a streak that began just before they acquired the former-Pacer. If the Lakers lose tonight at home to the Hornets, the Kings will claim the seventh seed with the Lakers falling to the eighth spot.
The NBA's final day of the regular season features a 14-game schedule, however only four games have any playoff significance. They are Orlando/Indiana, Washington/Detroit, Toronto/Chicago and New Orleans/LA Lakers. ESPN will air a doubleheader with the first game at 8:05 ET and the late game starting at 10:35 ET. The Clippers are at Dallas where the Mavs are favored by 9 1/2 points (190) and the Nuggets are in Seattle where the Sonics are favored by 7 1/2 points (213).
The Magic visit the Pacers at 7:05 ET. Indiana is favored by six points with a total of 189. The Magic have won 16 of their last 21 games and Bob Hill has said his regulars will play. The Pacers can't be the fifth seed but can secure the sixth seed with a win. Indiana would finish eighth (and get the Pistons!) by losing and Chicago beating Toronto (likely), a scenario the Pacers most likely prefer to avoid. The Pacers have won four of five but are just 2-10 ATS their last 12.
The Wizards can clinch the fifth seed with a win tonight at Detroit (7:35 ET), where they are favored by five points (197). They can also clinch the fifth seed if the Bulls lose to the Raptors, although they are probably not counting on that, as Toronto's lost 12 straight games to Chicago. If the Wizards lose and both the Bulls and Pacers win, Washington drops to the seventh seed and will face Miami, a team which has beaten them 16 consecutive times!
The Wizards will finish as the six-seed if they lose and the Bulls win but the Pacers lose. Interestingly, the Wizards have beaten the Pistons in their two previous meetings and it would be ironic if they lost here, with the Pistons likely to rest their starters (as they did vs Milwaukee on Monday). The Wizards surely want that fifth seed so they can open with the Cavs, who they beat three of four this year and who will be making their first playoff appearance since 1998.
The Bulls host the Raptors at 8:35 ET and are favored by 10 points (204 1/2). Chicago can claim the fifth seed by winning, as long as the Wizards lose in Detroit. If they win and the Wizards win, they are the seventh seed. However, the Bulls could fall all the way to the eighth spot if they lose! That's some incentive for this game. The Bulls lost all four meetings with Detroit this year, extending their losing streak to the Pistons to 12 games.