NBA Previews: April 6th, 2014

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics

New York Knicks at Miami Heat
Tip: 1pm ET, American Airlines Arena, Miami FL.

Both the Heat and the Knicks lost important games last time out, however New York’s late loss to the Washington Wizards is much more painful.

With the loss and subsequent Atlanta Hawks win, the Hawks took sole possession of the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks realistically need to win all of their remaining games, starting tonight, to make the playoffs.

Miami played one of the best games of this season in their 122-121 double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The loss prevented Miami from taking control of the top seed in the conference with the Pacers playing their worst basketball of the year.

Carmelo Anthony is suffering through a shoulder injury but is expected to play with the Knicks’ playoff hopes on the line.

Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers
Tip: 3:30pm ET, Staples Center, Los Angeles CA.

The last time these two teams met, the Lakers lost by a franchise-record 48 points. That it was to the team they share a city and an arena with was even more painful.

Nothing much has changed since that game in March. The Clippers are still jostling for playoff positioning in the packed West playoff bracket while the Lakers are fully embracing the prospect of a top draft pick.

Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings
Tip: 6pm ET, Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento CA.

Another team fighting for their playoff lives meets a team already focussing on the off-season. Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix are locked in a fight for the final two playoff slots in the Western Conference. Sacramento, despite a roster that really should be performing better, are in line for yet another lottery pick in this year’s much-hyped draft.

Dallas is in the midst of a four-game road swing set to decide their playoff fate. The Mavericks may have split their recent eight-game home stretch right down the middle, but are riding a four-game road winning streak. A fifth straight win would mark the team’s first such streak in the last three years.

Sacramento couldn’t be more different. This season that began with a celebration of securing the long-term future of the team with a new arena and popular new ownership has faltered and failed to translate into on-court success. This year’s draft could be make-or-break.

Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers
Tip: 6pm ET, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis IN.

This game will either mark the beginning of a turnaround for Indiana or the Pacers move to DEFCON 1. Atlanta recently lost eight straight games, is nursing a multitude of injuries and really has no business holding down that eighth seed.

Indiana, once tipped to be the team to end Miami’s run of Finals appearances, have fallen off a cliff since the beginning of February. The Pacers have dropped seven of their last ten games including a woeful six-game losing streak away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets
Tip: 7pm ET, Toyota Center, Houston TX.

Houston can take a big step towards securing home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs with a win at home against the struggling Nuggets.

Denver has dropped six of it’s last eight games after suffering four season-ending injuries to key players this season.

Houston has played well in the absence of Dwight Howard, rested recently as he deals with an ankle issue.

Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs
Tip: 7pm ET, AT&T Center, San Antonio TX.

As mentioned, Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix are in a bitter fight for those final few playoff spots. The Grizzlies, however, have had little luck on the road in San Antonio. On top of last season’s playoff sweep, the Grizzlies have lost 21 of 23 games at the AT&T Center.

San Antonio on the other hand has been the model of consistency yet again. A win tonight would make it 14 straight at home and a fourth 60-win season and the third of Tim Duncan’s remarkable career.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Miami Heat

Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors
Tip: 9pm ET, Oracle Arena, Oakland CA.

Golden State made waves around the league late this week with the removal of top assistant Darren Erman and re-assigned Brian Scalabrine. Erman’s dismissal (for violating team policy) is clearly the move that could hurt the team most.

On-court, Golden State have improved after a blip during March. Trying to avoid Oklahoma City and San Antonio in the opening round is now the aim, and winning six of their last nine is a huge step in achieving that aim.

Utah, on the other hand, has been openly tanking for a high draft pick all season. They endured one of the poorest starts in league history but have played better over the second half of the season while still losing games. This game marks the fourth meeting between one of the worst scoring teams and the best scoring teams.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns
Tip: 9pm ET, US Airways Arena, Phoenix AZ.

Could this be a first-round playoff preview? Phoenix are trying to force their way into the playoffs and will play the Thunder or Spurs in the opening round.

Both teams come into the game hot, the Thunder after ending San Antonio’s 19-game winning streak with Kevin Durant equalling Michael Jordan’s 40-game tear of scoring 25 points.

Phoenix has also lost just two of their last nine and head home after a strong 109-93 win in Portland.

New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers
Tip: 9pm ET, Moda Center, Portland OR.

Portland are the team New Orleans would like to be. Strong front-court play led by a forward who can score inside and out teamed with good perimeter shooting and a strong point guard.

Through injury and poor play, however, New Orleans has again found itself looking for ping-pong balls in the lottery. The Pelicans have dropped four straight games and are set to be without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon

Portland endured a rough spot after their stunning start to the season but have steadied the ship lately, remaining in contention for the fourth seed in the West and home-court advantage in a first-round playoff matchup.

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