While some things are already set in stone in this NBA season regarding the final standings and the NBA playoffs, there are teams battling for positions or even making it. For the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday night was a very good one, as it was for the Toronto Raptors. Not so much for the Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
We’ll begin with the Mavericks, who didn’t really beat a very good team (the New York Knicks), but they did it in dramatic fashion, and once again put themselves level with the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets at a 37-38 record, although due to tiebreakers, the Mavericks are outside the top 8. However, they’ve won two in a row and the ability of J.J. Barea over the last two games, including the go-ahead basket in the win over the Knicks (91-89) gives them hope despite the poor form Dirk Nowitzki is in and Chandler Parsons being out for the season. One problem for the Mavericks is their remaining schedule, which includes playing in Detroit, Clippers and Utah, while also facing the Grizzlies, Rockets and Spurs, which means it isn’t going to be easy.
Another team having a good day are the Raptors. There wasn’t much the Hawks could have done to catch up with them, but their 105-97 win against Atlanta puts them six games ahead of them and still just two behind the Cavaliers as they keep the pressure on, hoping that somehow they end up playing as the number one seed in the East. Regardless of seeding, the Raptors did set a new franchise record by picking up their 50th regular season win. Now all they need to do is finally win a playoff series, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time.
And on to the bad. The Jazz lost a home game to the Golden State Warriors. That’s life. But that loss put them back in 8th, tied with the Rockets and Mavericks, one game below .500. What’s worse is that they had the game in their hands until a Shaun Livingston offensive rebound and a Klay Thompson three pointer. In overtime, all the great defense they had working for them against Stephen Curry stopped, and the Warriors ran away with the game.
The Grizzlies should be worried too after their 109-105 home loss against the Denver Nuggets. They’re still fifth in the West, but now only two games ahead of Portland (6th) and four games above the Rockets-Jazz-Mavericks trio. The problem here is that Memphis are running on fumes. Even with some players back, they’re still injured and out of rhythm, losing their last four games and eight of their last 10. A big problem for them is playing the Warriors twice in the final three games of the season. On the road against the Clippers isn’t easy as well.
Last and maybe least are the Miami Heat, who should be higher than fifth in the East, but losing to the worst-in-the-West Los Angeles Lakers ties them up with the Celtics and Hornets as both teams are looking to finish fourth or even third (Hawks one game ahead of everyone). Let’s put it this way: The last time the Lakers beat one of the playoff teams from the East was on December 30 against the Celtics. They have just one more win against someone from the top 8 in the East all season, until Miami came to town, losing 102-100 in overtime.