The 2019 NBA Playoffs will get underway in exactly four weeks from Saturday’s regular-season action. With that in mind, and on a night where nine teams currently in the playoff field hit the court, let’s examine three things: How each squad in the playoff chase fared, where each of them reside in the standings, and what lies ahead for these crop of postseason hopefuls.
The Celtics continued their push for home court in the first round after holding off a late surge from the Hawks, picking up a 129-120 victory. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving led the team in points (30), rebounds (11) and assists (9) as Boston won its fifth game in the last six outings.
Brad Stevens’ group is currently one game behind the persevering Pacers for fourth in the East, with both squads facing off two more times before the season ends. Those contests, which could possibly determine who attains home court, are critical as the season series is currently split 1-1.
Biggest game this week: @ Philadelphia (Wednesday, 8 ET, ESPN)
Boston trails the 76ers by a half game and will look to make a statement and go for the season sweep.
Next five games: Denver, @ Philadelphia, @ Charlotte, San Antonio, @ Cleveland
Brooklyn dropped to 0-2 to begin its seven-game road trip, losing in Utah 114-98.
It’s a brutal stretch for the Nets, who are seeking their first playoff appearance since the 2013-14 season. The Nets don’t play another home game until March 30, when they begin a three-game homestand against the Bucks, Celtics and Raptors. How welcoming.
Biggest game this week: @ L.A. Lakers (Friday, 10:30 ET, League Pass)
Who would’ve thought a LeBron James-led squad would be their easiest opponent this week?
Next five games: @ LA Clippers, @ Sacramento, @ L.A. Lakers, @ Portland, @ Philadelphia
Nikola Jokic’s ejection didn’t cost the Nuggets as they were able to hang on against Indiana, winning 102-100.
The Nuggets also remain one game behind the two-time defending champs for the top seed out West. They’ll have a chance to split the season series with Golden State on April 2 in Oakland. As for this week, the Nuggets are about to begin a four-game road trip, and they’ll need “Big Honey.”
Biggest game this week: @ Boston (Monday, 7:30 ET, League Pass)
The Nuggets look to start a four-game road trip against the East on a good note.
Next five games: @ Boston, @ Washington, @ New York, @ Indiana, Detroit
The Pacers shot 0-for-8 from deep in the second half, which crippled their chances of upsetting the Nuggets on the road in a 102-100 defeat.
Indiana, fifth in the Eastern Conference, is one game ahead of the Celtics and a half game behind the 76ers for third place. Their schedule this week could determine their ultimate standing come April as they’re currently on a four-game West road trip, with the Blazers, Clippers and Warriors upcoming.
Biggest game this week: @ Portland (Monday, 10:30 ET, ESPN)
It’s crucial the Pacers steal a game during this four-game road trip against the West. Here’s their best opportunity.
Next five games: @ Portland, @ LA Clippers, @ Golden State, Denver, @ Oklahoma City
Golden State Warriors
Golden State has made a statement over the past eight days by silencing three other elite teams in the Western Conference: Denver was no match, Houston’s comeback bid fell short and Oklahoma City felt the wrath of the Splash Bros yet again. The Warriors cruised to a 110-88 win over the Thunder behind 33 points from Stephen Curry and 23 from Klay Thompson.
Golden State remains one game ahead of the Nuggets for the West’s No. 1 seed.
Biggest game this week: @ San Antonio (Monday, 8 ET, ESPN)
Kevin Durant, who missed his second game with an ankle injury, is expected back for Monday’s game against the Spurs when the Warriors will have another opportunity to humble a Western Conference challenger.
Next five games: @ San Antonio, @ Minnesota, Indiana, Dallas, Detroit
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have lost nine of their last 14 games, with their latest setback coming at the hands of Golden State after falling 110-88 on their home floor.
If the season ended today, Oklahoma City would not have home-court advantage. To make matters worse, among the eight teams currently in the West playoff picture, the Thunder have the toughest schedule remaining.
Biggest game this week: Toronto (Wednesday, 9:30 ET, ESPN)
Oklahoma City must prove its still a formidable opponent heading into the playoffs by winning at least one of these back-to-back games against Toronto.
Next five games: Miami, Toronto, @ Toronto, @ Memphis, Indiana
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland lost in a possible playoff preview against the Spurs, falling 108-103. The team’s biggest concern, however, is the health of shooting guard CJ McCollum. Midway through the third quarter, McCollum was helped off the court after suffering a left knee injury. Further details should be provided on Sunday as he’s slated for an MRI.
The Blazers are fourth in the Western Conference, a game behind the third-place Rockets and a half game ahead of the Thunder. Portland opens up its final homestand of the season on Monday, a consequential four-game stretch as the team fights for positioning.
Biggest game this week: Indiana (Monday, 10:30 ET, ESPN)
It’s a tough test for Terry Stotts’ crew whether their starting guard plays or not, and it’s against a team that has still thrived despite losing their starting guard to injury.
Next five games: Indiana, Dallas, Detroit, Brooklyn, @ Chicago
San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled against his former team, but the Spurs did just enough to put away the Blazers 108-103. Seven players reached double figures and San Antonio earned its eighth consecutive victory.
The Spurs have boasted the No. 1 ranked defense in the NBA during their winning streak. They’re sixth in the Western Conference and just 2.5 games back of the West’s third seed, a finish not out of the question considering the way they’re playing. It’s a tough upcoming week ahead, however, but they enter it with confidence after knocking off the Thunder, Nuggets, Bucks and Blazers during their recent roll.
Biggest game this week: Golden State (Monday, 8 ET, ESPN)
The hottest team in the West puts itself to the test against the team out to make another statement.
Next five games: Golden State, Miami, @ Houston, @ Boston, @ Charlotte
Rudy Gobert overcame an illness and dropped 23 points and 17 rebounds in a win over the Nets.
The Jazz are currently in seventh place in the West, which would setup a showdown with the Nuggets. Benefiting from the league’s easiest remaining schedule, however, should allow them to make a jump.
Biggest game this week: @ New York (Wednesday, 7:30 ET, League Pass)
Donovan Mitchell returning home adds some intrigue to a week full of below. 500 opponents.
Next five games: @ Washington, @ New York, @ Atlanta, @ Chicago, Phoenix
What about the Washington Wizards?
First, let’s just marvel at what we’re witnessing from Bradley Beal. The Wizards All-Star shooting guard was scorching hot against the Grizzlies and logged a 40-point performance for the second night in a row. His masterpiece on Saturday included a career-high nine 3-pointers, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals in a Wizards’ 135-128 triumph.
Beal is averaging 31.2 points on 50/40/85 shooting splits since the All-Star break — a monster stretch that has fortified his All-NBA case — but the Wizards are 6-6 during that span and need to pick up the pace for any shot at the playoffs. Washington is still on the fringe, moving within three games of eighth-place Miami after Saturday’s win.
Biggest game this week: Miami (Saturday, 7 ET, League Pass)
The Wizards are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference and a win against the Heat would help damage the standing of a team slightly ahead of them.
Next five games: Utah, @ Chicago, Denver, Miami, @ Los Angeles
What about the … never mind
Switching gears to teams headed towards the lottery. The Pelicans lost in overtime to the Suns after a bizarre sequence that was just another reason New Orleans is slated to miss the playoffs.
The Anthony Davis drama has certainly impacted their season, but it was shades of another power forward that ultimately cost them Saturday’s game: Chris Webber.
New Orleans called a timeout it did not have with 1.1 seconds left in overtime, setting up a Devin Booker technical free throw that sealed a 138-136 Suns’ victory.
Let’s rewind a bit: The Pelicans had a 136-133 lead plus possession of the ball with 7.7 seconds remaining in the game. From there, they turned the ball over with a five-second violation; opted not to foul on the ensuing Suns possession despite being up three and the clock winding down; watched Josh Jackson hit a game-tying 3; then proceeded to call a non-existent timeout to draw a technical.
It was a terrible way to lose, but after all, it is March Madness (sorry C-Webb).