Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Wonder if it still holds true in NBA-land:
The “experts” used to say that if you didn’t have either/both the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers in the post-season, then the NBA Playoffs suffered.
But, then again, won’t these upcoming NBA Playoffs be way better off without either of these crummy clubs?
The Knicks had their fate sealed this past Saturday night when Atlanta surprised 6-point road favorite Miami 98-85 and – so whether or not this was an “important year” for the Hawks, they’re in and the Knicks are out in the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs while the Lakers waved bye-bye to any/all playoff hopes months ago but there’s always the other team in town to carry the banner … the $64,000 question is whether or not the Clippers can (finally) make a deep run into this post-season in Year One of the Doc Rivers Era.
In any event, the NBA Playoffs tip off Saturday with four games and another four Sunday tilts and we can hardly wait but first let’s sort through a couple of tonight’s key games here as we wind down the final days of regular-season play:
Tonight, it’s …
MIAMI (54-26) at WASHINGTON (42-38) – 7:05 p.m. ET
Following Sunday’s hairy 102-97 win by Indiana over Oklahoma City, the Pacers are the ones sporting the ultra-slim half-game lead over the Heat for the top seed in the East and note the remaining sked sees Miami here in the nation’s capital and then home to weakling Philadelphia on Wednesday night while Jekyll-and-Hyde Indiana’s in Orlando come Wednesday to wrap up its schedule.
Gotta believe it’s an all-hands-on-deck game here for Erik Spoelstra’s squad with G Dwyane Wade fresh off a solid 24-point game in Atlanta following a nine-game absence because of hamstring woes. If Wade can stay on the court here for 30-plus minutes – and we fully realize that may be stretching things – then the Heat will have a solid shot at getting dead-even in the standings with the Pacers (55-26).
On the flip side, Washington is trying to fend off Charlotte in the fight for the #6 seed – the Hornets are one full game back with two games to go – and here we’ll pay special attention to Wizards young two-guard Bradley Beal who filled up the stat sheet in the other night’s 104-91 win/cover versus 11-point pup Milwaukee as Beal registered 26 points, 5 assists and just 2 turnovers in 37 minutes.
Hey, Heat, do you want this numero uno seed … or not?
MEMPHIS (48-32) at PHOENIX (47-33) – 10:05 p.m. ET
It’s truly a fight to the finish for this eighth and final playoff berth in the NBA’s Western Conference and we’ll feel badly for anybody that doesn’t make it to the post-season party while playing give-or-take .600 ball.
Okay, so the visiting Grizzlies are at an extreme disadvantage when you consider they had to travel off last night’s game at the beleaguered LA Lakers while the Suns were idle last evening after the 101-98 loss-but-cover at 4-point favorite Dallas this past Saturday night.
Consider that Phoenix, however, are not actually “full strength” these days as star G Goran Dragic is laboring badly with a bum ankle – in Saturday’s loss versus the Mavs he finished with 13 points on just 6-of-18 FG shooting and several times refused to exit the game when coach Jeff Hornacek attempted to “sub” for him.
If Dragic can’t make those sharp cuts to the hoop here or if Memphis can bottle him up in the half-court game, then the host Suns will be in trouble unless the likes of G Eric Bledsoe can play a monster game.
In case you were wondering, the Grizzlies lost their only other trip into the Valley of Sun with a 99-91 setback on Jan. 2nd when the aforementioned Dragic went off for 33 points and 7 assists … just sayin’!
THE BASEBALL REPORT
The suds are tastin’ awfully good in Milwaukee these days, eh?
The beer capital of the good ole USA now has a baseball team that’s the toast of old Milwaukee – the Brewers (10-2) exited the weekend with a Major-League Baseball-best nine-game winning streak and so you have to go all the way back to 1987 to find the last time the Brew Crew started off with such a rapid-fire beginning and that year Milwaukee was an amazing 13-and-oh out of the starting gate and you may wish to know back then the team’s owner was a chap named Bud Selig … now wouldn’t it be something if the long-running commish ended his career with the Brewers winning World Series?
You’re right … let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves!
Anyway, we must remind you that ’87 Brewers team that steamrolled everyone in its path the first two-or-so weeks wound up finishing in third place in the old version of the American League East while this here-and-now Brew Crew bunch sports a three-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central and now here come the Cardinals into town for a three-game series that hardly is make-or-break in fashion but it sure could elevate this Milwaukee club should they be able to win two-of-three or even snag a sweep.
Milwaukee’s just-completed three-game weekend sweep over Pittsburgh – that read 4-2, 3-2 and 4-1 – was the latest showcase of standout pitching that this Brewers club boasts and who knew that at this early stage of the 2014 season that RHP Kyle Lohse (the winning pitcher on Sunday with 8.2 innings of brilliant work) would be able to quiet a Bucs lineup featuring last year’s NL MVP centerfielder Andrew McCutchen and 1B Pedro Alvarez to a combined 1-for-7 or that righty Matt Garza would be pitching to an 0.93 WHIP following his early-season starts against Atlanta (a painful 1-0 loss) and Philadelphia (a 9-4 Brewers win where Garza did not get the decision)?
Meanwhile, the oft-dissected Brewers pen has been absolutely brilliant thus far with RHP Francisco Rodriguez already owning four saves in as many save opportunities and how about the fact he has 11 Ks and only 1 walk so far?
K-Rod is back, ladies and gents!
The Brewers were all the news this past off-season simply because OF Ryan Braun was coming back to work after last year’s 65-game drug suspension – but it’s pitching, pitching and more pitching that has this Milwaukee team riding high.
Let’s see how three games with the Cardinals turns out before we grant any confetti-filled parades near Laverne or Shirley’s neighborhood!
In other MLB News & Notes …
You tell us … what’s happened to the Kansas City Royals?
The team that many folks believed would beat out Detroit in the American League Central battle this year instead has flopped face-first with a sorry 4-7 mark after two weeks of play.
While aforementioned Milwaukee brought out the brooms to sweep away Pittsburgh this past weekend, the KC Royals were the ones getting swept in a three-game set in Minnesota and those bats that were supposed to be wringing out hits/runs instead were silent with a grand total of five runs scored against a less-than-stellar Twins pitching staff.
Heck, don’t look now but Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas is hitting a less-than-robust .091 (that’s 3-for-33 with one run scored and one RBI) and then there’s burly DH Billy Butler who is batting .171 (yes, that’s also his current slugging percentage) with zero home runs so far …
Finally, go ahead and raise your hand if you thought that Toronto’s soft-tossing LHP Mark Buehrle, Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Zack Greinke, Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale and Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez would be the quartet of starting hurlers who would exit this weekend all at 3-0 so far. Note that “King Felix” owns half of Seattle’s six wins so far and gotta believe that if he wins 20-plus this year the M’s will indeed be fighting for a post-season berth at year’s end … do you believe the Mariners have not been to the playoffs since 2001 and have finished fourth in each of the last four seasons? Yikes!
NOTE: Catch more NBA News/Notes/Previews plus there’s MLB Updates and our NFL Draft Reports in the next edition of Jim Sez.