Enormous Consequences is a daily look at the most impactful games in the NBA’s playoff races.
There is not a lot of time left in the NBA season, which means that nearly every loss for a team not already eliminated from postseason contention is going to have some sort of enormous consequences.
Whether said consequences come in the form of momentum, seeding or eliminating a contender from playoff contention altogether depends on the game one decides to watch, but Wednesday night’s slate featuring 28 (TWENTY-EIGHT!) teams should be quite exciting for those doing some good ol’ fashioned scoreboard watching.
As has become customary, let’s begin this column by looking at the forever-muddied Western Conference playoff picture from the bottom up. The Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets are fighting for the final three berths available in the West and, technically, the Memphis Grizzlies could be lumped in there as well, as they haven’t mathematically clinched a spot in the postseason as of yet.
The Utah Jazz will continue fighting for their playoff lives when they travel to Oregon for a game against the already-eliminated Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m., NBA League Pass). The Jazz showed quite a bit of heart in their triple-overtime victory earlier this week, but as the current No. 10 seed, they’ll need to keep that momentum in order to find themselves playing professional basketball next month.
Sitting just one-half game ahead of the Jazz in the playoff standings are the Houston Rockets, as they find themselves on the wrong side of a tiebreaker with the Phoenix Suns for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. Houston could make a big move on Wednesday night, however, if they’re able to upend the No. 7 Dallas Mavericks (9 p.m., NBA League Pass) in a battle of teams still trying to solidify their playoff positioning.
Speaking of Phoenix, they might have the toughest row to hoe on Wednesday night when they host Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (10 p.m., NBA League Pass). The Suns are currently in the driver’s seat of sorts as the No. 8 seed in a conference that has eight playoff berths to hand out, but a loss to the No. 2 team in the conference combined with victories by the Rockets and Jazz would drop the Suns to tenth place in the standings.
The sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets weren’t done any favors by the schedule-makers late in the season, either, as they have to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night (9 p.m., NBA League Pass). Denver’s spot in the playoffs isn’t quite as contentious as the teams already looked at in this column, but three of their final five games include meetings with tough teams; the Clippers, Orlando Magic and Thunder — all playoff teams — and their upcoming game in Phoenix on Saturday night could have interesting playoff implications as well.
Memphis is the final team in the West that has neither been mathematically eliminated or confirmed to be in the playoffs, but they’re much closer to catching the Clippers for the fourth seed in the conference — thereby giving them homecourt advantage in the first round — then they are to falling into the rest of the pack mentioned above. Nonetheless, a loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night (8 p.m., NBA League Pass) would not help anyone involved.
The other side of the bracket isn’t nearly as convoluted considering only three teams are in the middle of the pack that isn’t quite eliminated or safe when it comes to the postseason. only the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are the three teams still playing for playoff hopes.
The Bucks are the team on the outside looking in for the time being, but they actually control their own destiny. If Milwaukee is able to win out beginning with Wednesday evening’s game against the Washington Wizards (7 p.m., NBA League Pass), the Bucks will effectively eliminate Philly from playoff contention — the two teams will meet next Wednesday with a lot potentially on the line.
The Sixers aren’t likely to have much trouble with their opponents on Wednesday night when they play the Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m., NBA League Pass) in an attempt to stay 1.5 games in front of the Bucks for the final playoff spot in the East. The Cavs are coming off of a 116-77 loss to the Detroit Pistons, a terrible defeat when considering Detroit is 15 games below .500 on the season … and possibly good news for the Sixers, provided the Cavs are unable to bounce back.
Last, but not least, are the beloved Knickerbockers. New York will take a short trip to play the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., NBA League Pass) in an effort to stay ahead of the pack. this would likely be the toughest matchup of the three still-contending teams in the East … if Deron Williams weren’t already ruled out.
Good Games Without Enormous Consequences
The Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics will meet again on Wednesday evening (8 p.m., ESPN) in what could easily be a first round playoff preview. The Magic actually have a better record, by the way, but the Celtics would have homecourt advantage due to their status as division winners — unless New York overtakes them, of course.