Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are playing to dodge the Spurs. The
Wizards want a win for the first crack at LeBron.
Los Angeles and Washington are the teams in most control of
their playoff futures as the NBA's regular season heads into its
final night Wednesday. Also to be determined: the postseason
destinations of Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee and Sacramento.
The Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets, who had their own
postseason hopes before a poor finish. If Los Angeles wins, it
would open against No. 2 seed Phoenix, forcing the Kings to face
defending champion San Antonio in the opening round.
If the Lakers lose, they finish with the same record as the
Kings, who would own the tiebreaker and take the No. 7 seed. Bryant
claims to not care which team the Lakers play -- but he averaged
42.5 points this season against the Suns.
"Not really. We just have to prepare,'' he said. "Whoever we
play, it's going to be tough because it's two great teams. We just
have to make sure we do our homework and go out there and try to
Against San Antonio, which has defensive ace Bruce Bowen, Bryant
averaged 30 points but shot only 38 percent.
Washington (41-40) has a one-game lead over Indiana and Chicago
for fifth place in the East. If the Wizards beat Detroit -- which
figures to use mostly reserves -- they would lock up fifth and open
against fourth-seeded Cleveland.
"When we ended our season last year, it was in the fifth
spot,'' Wizards star Gilbert Arenas said, "so we're in fifth spot
until somebody takes it from us. And the only people that can take
it from us is the Detroit Pistons.''
The Wizards can also finish fifth if the Bulls lose at home to
Toronto. The Pacers host Orlando.
If Chicago and Indiana lose Wednesday, the East will have three
sub-.500 teams in the postseason.
The fifth-place team avoids having to play a division champion
in the first round. Detroit won the Central Division and is the No.
1 seed, while Southeast champ Miami is second and New Jersey is No.
3 after winning the Atlantic.
Washington's victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday night means the
Bucks will need help to avoid finishing eighth and facing the
NBA-best Pistons in the first round.
The Central Division is sending all five of its teams to the
postseason, the first time that has happened since the Midwest
Division did it in 1985-86.
A couple of matchups in the West were set Tuesday night when the
Memphis Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers to clinch the No. 5
seed. They will open against Dallas, which has the second-best
record in the West but falls to fourth because it is in the same
division as San Antonio.
The Clippers open against No. 3 seed Denver, the Northwest
Division champion. Los Angeles (46-35) has home-court advantage
because it has a better record than the Nuggets (44-37).
The postseason opens Saturday.