Trying to recap an entire weekend of surprise DNPs and injuries would be nearly impossible to do here, so let’s just take a look at some of the weekend’s big stories. The Playoffs are close to being set and now that several teams are out, and others no longer have position to play for, figuring out who is going to play and who is not just became even tougher. Here’s what we know.
Metta World Violence
The talk around the water cooler on Monday will mostly surround Metta World Peace, who probably couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate name for himself. His elbow to the head of James Harden (concussion, likely done for regular season) was simply an act of violence and the only question remaining is how many games the artist formerly known as Artest will be suspended for. I think the least he’ll get is three games, and he could get a lot more given his track record over the years. David Stern hasn’t forgotten about the Malice in the Palace, and could throw the book at MWP. And because they only have one regular-season game remaining, a five-game suspension could knock him out of most of the first round. The Lakers held on to beat the Thunder in overtime behind the brilliant play of Kobe Bryant, but the loss of MWP is going to leave a mark. Hopefully Harden will be ready for the playoffs, but it’s not a given. And on a side note, Kevin Durant passed Kobe for the scoring lead, but it’s very, very close.
The Real Melo Stood Up
Carmelo Anthony went off again for 39 points on Sunday as the Knicks downed the Hawks, while Amare Stoudemire chipped in with 22 points and 12 boards. I have no idea where this Carmelo was during most of the season, but he’s averaging 30 points, seven boards, four assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in April. My Melo team was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs while Melo was still on strike, but if you made it through Round 1, he might have carried you to and through the Finals. And those of you who picked up Amare for the final few games are also being rewarded. Congratulations.
As of Sunday night, the matchups look like this:
No. 1 Bulls vs. No. 8 76ers – The Bulls are the likely No. 1 seed, unless they lose both of their games and the Heat win both of theirs. The two are tied for the season series at 2-2, and the tie breaker could come down to winning percentage vs. playoff teams in the East, and I don’t have the skills or time to figure that one out. But as long as the Bulls win at Indy or beat the Cavs at home, they’re No. 1. As for the Sixers, they’re only a ½ game behind the Knicks, and three full games up on the Bucks. They are nearly a lock for the playoffs, but could creep into the No. 7 seed if they win two of their last three games, and the Knicks fail. And what this means is that your Sixers and Knicks look like strong plays until the end of the season, while the Bulls could give their guys some rest once they clinch. The Sixers finish up at New Jersey, Milwaukee and Detroit.
No. 2 Heat vs. No. 7 Knicks – This is the matchup everyone, including the NBA league office, wants to see. The Sixers could screw it up by going on a tear and passing the Knicks, as they finish up with a cupcake schedule, but all three games are on the road. The Heat still have a small chance of tying the Bulls, but I just don’t see it happening. The Knicks are going to keep playing their studs, while the Heat are unpredictable. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers have all missed games recently, and could miss more this week. The Heat finish with games at Boston and Washington, and I’d be surprised to see any of the big guns against the Wizards, while Wade sounds unlikely for both of them at this point.
No. 3 Pacers vs. No. 6 Magic – While this series isn’t guaranteed, it is very likely to happen, as both teams have at least a two-game separation for their spots. The Pacers finish with the Pistons and Bulls at home, while the Magic get Charlotte in Orlando and finish up at Memphis. Players on both teams could be shaky for their final game of the season, but my guess is they’ll continue to play their guys until the end.
No. 4 Celtics vs. No. 5 Hawks – This is another series everyone will want to see, as they’ve met in the playoffs several times in the last few years. Remember Zaza Pachulia’s head-butt on Kevin Garnett? They don’t like each other and vs. the Celtics in the playoffs is the loudest I’ve ever heard Philips Arena. The Hawks get the Clippers and Mavericks at home, while the Celtics get Miami and Milwaukee in Boston. play. This series is set in stone and we're just waiting to see who gets homecourt advantage.