Denver was the only team in the grand Western playoff chase to lose on Tuesday.
The Raptors, whose claim to fame is that they take care of business, took care of business against the Nets despite an outrageous first quarter from D’Angelo Russell (24 points). The win got them to the 50-win mark and allowed them to open a 4-game lead on inactive Boston for No. 1 in the East.
Meanwhile, the shocking Pacers beat the Sixers in a highly competitive potential first-round preview. A win from the Cavaliers in Phoenix and a loss by the Wizards against the Wolves kept the carryover order in the East race. Milwaukee and Miami were inactive. Here’s what the East bracket would look like if the season ended right now.
In the West, both the Rockets and Warriors were off, leaving the race for No. 1 static with Houston ahead by two games plus the tiebreaker. Seven of the eight teams in the gang race for playoff spots were active — only Portland was off. Six of them — everyone but the freaking Denver Nuggets — won, primarily against bad teams. (The Wolves, who beat Washington, were the exception.)
The Nuggets, who have a brutal schedule remaining, lost a grudge match to the Lakers in L.A. by being outscored by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Denver’s now a game out of the No. 8 seed with San Antonio in its path. (The Spurs are tied with the Clippers and Jazz, but lose the tiebreaker.) As we discussed in Tuesday’s playoff race reset, Denver cannot afford to lose winnable games because it has such tough sledding ahead. This one was a massive blow. (The unspoken reality here is that the Lakers are suddenly not bad at all. Among all the 12 non-playoff teams, they are really a cut above everyone else right now.)
Here’s what the West playoff bracket would look like if the season ended right now after settling tiebreakers.
Wednesday’s schedule is light, but Wizards-Celtics has implications and Miami can climb into the East No. 7 with a win.
Source: Sports Feed