Two notable games on Tuesday. We saw the New Jersey Nets beat the Washington Wizards 96-92, moving the Nets within two games of Washington with five games left to play. The Nets hold the tiebreaker, so displacing the sixth-seed Wiz, who, thanks to Indy's loss to Philly, clinched a playoff berth despite losing their fifth straight, is now a stronger possibility.
Everybody beats the Wiz
Out West, the Hornets' 103-100 overtime win over the Clippers put them one game behind the Warriors for the final West playoff spot, and a half game behind the Clips.
Let's break it down...
How excited will a team be to find itself slotted in the playoffs against the Wizards, missing injured standouts Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas?
They'd be thrilled. You can't tell me coaches don't think about their seeding. And do you really want to finish sixth in the East? You might end up playing the Raptors. You'd probably rather draw Cleveland, which is up and down, or Chicago, which has a big-time hole in its inside game. Toronto is a more complete team than those two. Even in the West, if the Nuggets stay ahead of the Lakers -- you really want to play San Antonio? The best you can do is just play it out.
Whether it's a 2 vs. 7 or 3 vs. 6 matchup, drawing the Nets would permit Toronto up to four chances to lustily boo Vince Carter. How about that?
That would add some flavor to the series. Toronto is the rising team in the Eastern Conference, with GM Bryan Colangelo, coach Sam Mitchell and star Chris Bosh. I think they're timing their ascension well. Detroit's only going to go backwards the next few years, and Miami is aging. Meanwhile, Toronto is making the steady climb, and if it adds some more pieces in the offseason, the Raptors have a chance to get to the NBA finals. As opposed to the Nets, another team going in the wrong direction.
It's not impossible that the Magic even move up, and send the Wizards to the No. 8 spot.
Moving up from three games back with five to play is hard. I think I'll stick with the Nets and Magic at 7 and 8.
How badly does Cleveland want out of its current No. 5 slot, from which it would likely face Miami, especially when it could get a 2 and face the Nets or Wizards?
It looks like they'll be either 2 or 5. I don't think they match up with the Heat at the pace they play. They're going to do everything they can to get the 2.
What's the latest on the West's No. 8 chase?
I think Golden State's the only one that could throw a scare into No. 1 Dallas. As Ric Bucher noted on our "NBA Coast to Coast show," the Warriors could clinch by beating the Mavs in Oakland on Tuesday -- that could be a real statement.
You see the top three in the West advancing in the first round. How about that Rockets-Jazz 4-5 matchup?
Watch ESPN analyst Tim Legler during Wednesday's KIA "NBA Shootaround" (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) before the Magic-Pistons game at 8 p.m. ET. "NBA Fastbreak" airs at midnight ET. All questions above posed by ESPN.com editor Andrew Ayres.
• Talk back to The Daily Dime gang
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
Nets forward Richard Jefferson (35 points) helped the Nets beat the Wizards 96-92 Tuesday night to move within two games of sixth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference.
Chad Ford and John Hollinger look ahead to the NBA playoffs. With the draft approaching, Hollinger also talks about college stats lacking projectibility in the NBA, except for rebounding and free-throw shooting. And he explained why he is reticent to pick his No. 1 ranked NBA team for the title -- but he would with a gun to his head.
Any team "hoping" for the Suns in the first round is just plain delusional. Sure, SA is playing solid ball right now, but aside from the Mavs, no team is hungrier to get [it] on with things really counting like the Suns. Nuggets, Lakers, Clippers or Warriors, the Suns will kill whoever they face in round 1.
The final 5 days of the NBA season give us a preview of every Western Conference playoff matchup as it currently stands and very likely will end up. The Spurs end with the Nuggets, Mavs end with the Warriors, and the Suns and Jazz each will play the Lakers and Rockets, respectively, in the last five days of the season. That should make things a little more interesting than usual.
Wiz clinch playoffs despite fifth straight loss
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Elton Brand (37 points) and David West (33 points) both had season highs in the Hornets' 103-100 overtime win over the Clippers. West scored three straight hoops in OT.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
With the 103-100 overtime win against the Clippers, the New Orleans Hornets join two other teams at 7-0 or better in OT in a single season.
-- Michael E. Jackson, ESPN Research
Ever (McAllen,TX): Mr. Stein: I just want to know who is YOUR favorite player in the NBA and the Premiership and why? Thanks.
Marc Stein: Thanks for asking. I'll answer in two parts.
In the NBA, sorry, but I can't narrow it to one favorite. I love passing more than anything, followed by all-net shooting from deep and, of course, leftyness. Nash and Kidd are my favorite passers ... Nowitzki and Redd are my favorite bombers ... and Kobe is the best all-around entertainer.
In the Premiership, much as it pains me to say this, my hero does not come from the team I live and die with. Liverpool's Robbie Fowler is still my beloved ... still a genius finisher like no other with the most cultured left foot in England. But since he did have a spell playing for City, I feel a little less guilty admitting this publicly. My favorite City lads are the kids just coming through the team: Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson, Daniel Sturridge. But they've got to put some years in before they get near Fowler's level ... although Emile Mpenza is moving up my list quickly.
Elton Brand scored 37 points on Tuesday, giving him over 1,500 for the third straight season. Since the team moved to Los Angeles for the 1984-85 season, no other Clippers player has scored 1,500 points in three consecutive seasons.