NBA NIGHTLY PREVIEW – GAMES TO WATCH FOR WEDNESDAY NIGHT – 4/11/18

It would only be appropriate to cap off this season with a giant exclamation point, and that is exactly what’s happening tonight with so many important games lined up. There are all kinds of reasons to tune in tonight, from meaningful games for teams like Denver to meaningful games for individual players like Russell Westbrook. Scroll through below and I’m sure you’ll find a game worth watching.

Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers

10:30 PM (east) – ESPN

Maybe the most underrated game of the night is this one. All eyes will be on Denver and Minnesota, and rightfully so. But this game will have plenty of meaning as well. The winner determines the 3 seed in the West as well as who will face Houston in the 2nd round. This isn’t win or go home but it may be the next best thing. Both of these teams will be fighting for that 3 seed which will hopefully lead to a scrappy and desperate final game of the season.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder

8:00 PM (east) – FS Oklahoma

I don’t always advise people to watch Grizzlies games, but when I do you can be assured that something crazy may happen. Russell Westbrook needs just 16 more rebounds to average a triple double for the second consecutive season in a row. You can be confident you’ll see Russ stealing rebounds and maybe even requesting a few of his own players to take some “ill” advised shots. Outside of this the only reason to watch this game would be if you’re a pretty dedicated Thunder fan. If the Thunder somehow manage to lose this game they will be stuck with the 8 seed.

Denver Nuggets @ Minnesota Timberwolves

8:00 PM (east) – FS & ATL

The last season a team had a play-in scenario was in 1997. The Nuggets and Wolves will have one tonight. This is basically the first playoff game of the year. The tension will be high. The feel at the Target Center in Minnesota will be exciting and new. This is win or go home. Minnesota hasn’t been to a playoff in 14 years, and I can assure you that Denver doesn’t care. In fact they would love to make it 15 years.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Philadelphia 76ers

8:00 PM (east) – ESPN

The fourth game that needs to be on your radar tonight is this one. Milwaukee has all kinds of incentive to win and lose this game. A 76ers win would put the Bucks in position to lose their draft pick as they would be tied with a few teams for the 17th best record in the NBA. Currently, their pick will convey to the Suns if it falls in the top 10 or 17-30 range. If the Bucks do win this game it will put them in position to potentially play the Cavaliers in the first round (as long as the Cavs can handle the Knicks). Losing this game will give the Bucks the 7 seed and they will in turn play the beat up Boston Celtics in the 1st round. Watching this game to see what the Bucks decision making process will look like could be worth it alone. The 76ers have all the incentive to win as it would wrap up the 3 seed.

San Antonio Spurs @ New Orleans Pelicans

8:00 PM (east) – FSSW & FSN

Both teams should have incentive to win tonight. A win for either team would position them with the 5th seed in the west. A loss could potentially put either squad in the 8th seed and facing the Houston Rockets. Although, a loss for the Jazz would mean that the one of these teams will be running into a buzz saw in the first round. A loss for the Blazers would be more favorable as they seem to have cooled off towards the last couple weeks. This should be another hotly contested game as both teams will be fighting for the best position they can get.

Toronto Raptors @ Miami Heat

8:00 PM (east) – TSN & SUN

The final game to keep a tab on would be the Raptors and Heat. A Heat loss here could mean this same match-up would occur in the first round of the playoffs. There are also other scenarios that keep the Heat at the 7 seed. The Raptors are safe at the 1 seed but if they would prefer to play the Heat in round 1 over the Wizards or Bucks then a win tonight would give them the best opportunity for that to happen.

NBA SEASON RECAP: PART 1 – LEAST GETS LEASTER

IS THE LEASTERN CONFERENCE GETTING LEASTER??

Four eastern conference teams have above a .500 winning percentage against Western conference teams this season. Four! When you look out west they have 9 teams that have above a .500 winning percentage against Eastern conference teams.

At the beginning of this season Paul Millsap made the decision to leave the Hawks and sign with the Nuggets. The Hawks are clearly tanking, and although Millsap did miss time with the Nuggets, they do have him back and are fighting for a spot in the Western conference playoffs.

Paul wasn’t the only big name to leave the East. Paul George and Jimmy Butler both were traded from their respective teams. The Bulls were left in shambles and a glimmer of hope with some young talent. The Pacers on the other hand have found a potential franchise star in Victor Oladipo.

Even when a big name in Gordon Hayward left the Jazz in the West for the Celtics in the East this summer, the Jazz still drafted a franchise player of their own in Donovan Mitchell. It really seems like the East can’t catch a break. You could easily argue that 7 of the 10 best players in the league are all playing for Western conference squads.

With the playoffs coming up everyone will be suspecting whoever wins the West to be the team to win the championship. Between lack of talent and injury plagued teams the East won’t stand a chance against the favored representatives out West. Or so we think..

We play the games for a reason. The East still has Lebron James. These 2 arguments for the Eastern conference having a shot may be considered by some as a cop out. But, even if the East doesn’t stand a chance this year I still wouldn’t count them out for years to come.

Even if Lebron were to head out west in the off-season I would still argue that the Eastern conference has a bright future. The West has plenty of talent. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sure if the East can compete with the talent for quite some time if they lose Lebron. But what the West doesn’t have is the Celtics and the 76ers.

Between Boston and Philadelphia it is really difficult to imagine the East continuing to be called names such as “the leastern conference”. Boston somehow manages to grab a top 10 pick almost every year. They have rising stars in Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum. Even the C’s current stars, Kyrie (26) and Hayward (28),  still have a few years before they’ll start a downward trend. Don’t even get me started on what this team could look like if they were able to steal Anthony Davis from New Orleans.

It doesn’t seem possible to be in a much better position than Boston. Philadelphia isn’t afraid to take the challenge. A core of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Markelle Fultz may be the beginning of the new kings of the east. We haven’t seen much from Markelle Fultz this season. Without Fultz the 76ers are still in safe hands with Simmons lobbing the ball to Embiid. Embiid is age 24 and Simmons on 21.

The 76ers and Celtics were both able to manage a winning percentage against Western foes this year. If these teams are able to stay healthy (especially the sixers) then we may be looking at a new Eastern look. Pay attention these playoffs and see what some of these young guys can do. With both teams missing a star or two for some or all of the playoffs we’ll get to see even more of how valuable these guys have been all season long.