Well, the regular season is officially over, and while there were a ton of lineup changes on Wednesday, I’m not sure that it does much good to recap all of them here, now that fantasyland is officially a vacant island. So let’s take a look at the teams that actually made the playoffs (or didn’t).
Sadly, for Miami fans, the Heat did what they needed to do and beat the Wizards on Wednesday 110-102. But the Pacers and Bulls also won, forcing Miami out of the postseason. The Heat went 11-30 in the first half and 30-11 in the second half, and according to Elias, that’s the best second-half record of a team not making the playoffs in NBA history. Chris Bosh’s sad injury history certainly didn’t help, nor did the inconsistency of Josh Richardson or the fact that James Johnson didn’t start for the Heat. This one just might be on coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Pacers beat the Hawks’ reserves to secure the No. 7 seed and the Bulls crushed the Nets behind Jimmy Butler’s big night to finish at No. 8. And the Celtics beat the undermanned Bucks to take the No. 1 spot, while the Cavaliers lost another one, playing without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, to fall to the No. 2 seed.
The plan for Cleveland to rest their studs actually worked out, as Boston had the No. 1 seed locked up with their win, regardless of what the Cavs did. However, if the East somehow comes down to Boston and Cleveland in the Finals and the Celtics knock the Cavs out in Game 7 at home, the Cavaliers will look back to that ridiculous 26-point blown lead against the Hawks, getting beaten by the Hawks reserves, and then losing to the Heat (not too mention last night’s loss to the Raptors) as the worst four-game stretch in team history. But something tells me that LeBron and company still have this under control, and will come out on top in the East. I’m not sure I’d take anyone over LeBron in a seven-game series.
So while I could go on and on about the great performances of scrubby guys like Alex Poythress, Justin Anderson, Justin Holiday, Gerald Green, Nicolas Brussino, Archie Goodwin, K.J. McDaniels, Paul Zipser, Jamal Murray, Boban Marjanovic, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Norman Powell, Kris Dunn, Shabazz Muhammad, the entire Rockets’ starting five, Trey Burke, Sheldon McClellan, Willie Reed, Willie Cauley-Stein, Langston Galloway, Ben McLemore, Cheick Diallo, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier and Patrick Connaughton on Wednesday night, that ship has sailed. Only a handful of those guys even made the playoffs, and they’ll be playing a backup role now that the silly season is finally over. So here’s where we stand as far as the playoffs go, without any speculation or guess work left to take a stab at.
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1. Celtics (53–29) vs. 8. Bulls (41–41) – Game 1 Sunday at 6:30
2. Cavaliers (51–31) vs. 7. Pacers (42–40) – Game 1 Saturday at 3:00
3. Raptors (51–31) vs. 6. Bucks (42–40) – Game 1 Saturday at 5:30
4. Wizards (49–33) vs. 5. Hawks (42–40) – Game 1 Sunday at 1:00
1. Warriors (66–15) vs. 8. Trail Blazers (41–40) – Game 1 Sunday 3:30
2. Spurs (61–21) vs. 7. Grizzlies (43–39) – Game 1 Saturday 8:00
3. Rockets (55–27) vs. 6. Thunder (47–35) - Game 1 Sunday 9:00
4. Clippers (51–31) vs. 5. Jazz (51–31) - Game 1 Saturday 10:30
And finally, while I totally get those of you who think James Harden is the MVP, my vote, if I had one, would easily be for Russell Westbrook. He led his team to the playoffs (nearly single handedly), didn’t have a dream-coach pairing with Mike D’Antoni (like Harden did), and was easily the most valuable player to his team this season. When you add in the fact he AVERAGED a triple-double and broke Oscar Robertson’s single-season record with 42 of them, I simply don’t know how he doesn’t win the award. Harden’s season was truly amazing. Westbrook’s season was truly historic.
Enjoy the playoffs!