Friday’s 11 games in the NBA In-Season Tournament weren’t necessarily do-or-die affairs. Many of them included groups with one foot in the grave, so only a couple had big implications for what happened next.
However, something very important happened. Now there is a huge uproar for… you guessed it…
We’re just three points out of a five-way tie for first place in Western Conference Group B at 2-2. Then that result left them needing three at home to win their remaining games. If the LA Clippers beat the New Orleans Pelicans and the Houston Rockets beat the Denver Nuggets on Friday, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Rockets on Nov. 28, the results will pile up going into point differential.
The Clippers need to beat New Orleans by at least 19 points to overcome that gap. The Mavs should have beaten Houston by at least 15. And the Nuggets can only walk away with fewer than nine wins.
As a result, we have an exception to my “two-and-toast” rule that says the second loss is a complete elimination. Despite a 1-2 start, the Mavericks and Clippers are very much alive – surely Dallas can control its own destiny by the end of the next game! Meanwhile, here’s the big picture ahead of Tuesday’s slate. By my count, 22 teams still have promotion hopes.
Eliminated (three losses): Detroit, Washington, Memphis, San Antonio Dead on the job (two losses): Charlotte, Chicago, Portland, Oklahoma City Still breathing (two losses, West Team B): Dallas, LA Clippers very much alive (one loss) : Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, Orlando, Toronto, Brooklyn, Utah, Phoenix, Denver, New Orleans, Houston, Golden State Control: (zero losses): Indiana, Milwaukee, Miami, Boston, LA Lakers, Sacramento, Minnesota
There are only five games on the schedule on Tuesday, but one of them is huge because Indiana could be the first team to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. If the Pacers win in Atlanta, they will clinch Group A in the Eastern Conference. If not, things will get spicy: the team will finish undefeated and any of the four clubs could win it (Indiana, Atlanta, Philadelphia or Cleveland).
If Indiana doesn’t pick up, the Lakers could be the first team. The Lakers went a perfect 4-0 in the Western Conference if they beat Utah. If you don’t, it’s just as wide open as East Group A. The Jazz will help themselves by beating the Lakers by more than 12 points, which would put them ahead of the Lakers in a three-way matchup with Phoenix and put them in good shape for the wild card, even if they can’t win. group. Finally, note that a Lakers loss still leaves LA in a very strong position for the wild card.
Also on tap:
The Sixers and Cavs play a de facto elimination game; If Indiana falls, this winning team has a great chance to win. Eastern Division C has the same elimination combination between one-loss Orlando and one-loss Toronto. If it can pull off a run against Portland, Phoenix will put itself in a strong wild-card spot, especially if the Lakers beat Utah.
(Photo: Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)