The Los Angles Lakers (41-40) are in. So it's down to the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. With two games to play for both teams, the Warriors (40-40) hold a one-game lead, but the Clips (39-41) have the tiebreaker. Answering some questions about the race . . .
Rest versus responsibility
Do the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns, who are currently locked into the top two spots in the West, still have an obligation to play their best players for significant time this week when they face the Warriors and Clippers, respectively?
I think you have to do what's important for your own team. Now Phoenix is in a situation where it can rest its guys, and Dallas won't play most of its guys, according to Mark Cuban.
Is that fair to the Warriors and Clippers?
Maybe these two should have won more games two months ago and wouldn't be relying on other teams to determine their fates now. Now we ask how the Warriors feel about Suns likely resting their guys, and of course the Clippers don't want Dallas to rest their guys.
We have all these different scenarios, but the thing is if Golden State wins out, then they're in. I think the Warriors have a good shot to win out (Tuesday vs. Dallas, Wednesday at Portland Trail Blazers).
Perhaps the Clippers lost their right to complain by vacating the driver's seat in Sunday's loss to the Kings.
The Clippers had their chance and blew it. And it came at home, against a team that is out of the race. You can only worry about things you can control. Now they've got games at Phoenix on Tuesday, before closing out at home Wednesday against the Hornets.
The slumping Lakers, who clinched with Sunday's win over the Sonics, are fortunate in that they hold the tiebreaker against both the Clippers and Warriors. What's wrong with them?
Kobe Bryant's tried it both ways, being the scorer who gets 40 or 50 (like he did in Sunday's win over the Sonics) and they lose, or getting 20 and being the distributor and they lose. The problem is their porous D. They are soft in that department, which was very evident in that loss to the Clippers. And you can't say it's Luke Walton's offensive numbers either, because he's the best fit in that triangle system. It's the D.
The Warriors could hop up to No. 7 if they win two and the Lakers lose in Sacramento on Wednesday. But the drama would be much better with a Mavs-Warriors series, right?
With Don Nelson coming back to face his old team, yes. His departure from Dallas probably wasn't as smooth as it might appear. And you have the prospect of the Warriors sweeping the regular-season series from the best team in the league. If they do meet, the play of Baron Davis will be a key. Even though he's not 100 percent, he can still control a game completely.
Watch ESPN analyst Jon Barry during ABC's playoff coverage, which begins Saturday. Questions above posed by ESPN.com editor Andrew Ayres
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AP Photo/Donna McWilliam
Spurs forward Tim Duncan, back left, looks toward official Joey Crawford after a technical foul was called against him as he sat on the bench during the second half. Spurs guard Michael Finley argues the call on Duncan's behalf.
• Magic forward Grant Hill is shooting 56.4 percent (61 of 108) and averaging 17.2 points in his past nine games.
• In first comments since breaking his ankle last month, Toronto's Jorge Garbajosa said he's not even thinking about playing.
• San Antonio has 58 wins with two games left. The Spurs are trying to reach 60 victories for the fourth time in franchise history and the third time in the past five years.
• If Chicago defeats New Jersey in its finale Wednesday, it would give the franchise a 50-victory season for the first time since 1997-98, when Michael Jordan and Co. won the NBA championship.
-- The Associated Press
If shooting accuracy is your thing, you had to love the seven NBA games played on Saturday. The combined totals for those seven games: 571 field goals in 1,127 attempts. That's right: NBA players made more field-goal attempts than they missed, shooting 50.7 percent from the floor.
It has been more than 10 years since, on a day with at least this many games played, NBA players made more shots than they missed. The last time was on St. Patrick's Day in 1997, when the league made 50.2 percent of its field-goal attempts in a seven-game schedule.
The previous day with seven or more games on which the collective field-goal percentage was as high as it was Saturday was March 24, 1994, when NBA players shot 51.0 percent in seven games.
Kobe nets 50 in clinching win over Sonics
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Clippers guard Sam Cassell watches time run out alongside James Singleton, left, in a 105-100 loss to the Kings at the Staples Center.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
Tim Duncan grabs rebounds, but never headlines. Tim Duncan never lets us inside. Tim Duncan is boring.
Accurate scouting report, right?
Wrong. Duncan's dossier needs a major rewrite after Sunday.
An afternoon that was forecast to be more letdown than showdown wound up more competitive and combustible than the Mavericks or Spurs ever imagined, capped by Avery Johnson summoning starter Dirk Nowitzki off his bench and sending his star in for the final nine-plus minutes. That helped the hosts rally for a 91-86 triumph which, more than anything, seemed to suggest that Johnson simply couldn't bear to lose a home game to their hated rivals from the south, even when the game meant virtually nothing to Dallas.
I think that it's fairly absurd to think that the Spurs will beat Dallas. Dallas started 0-4, and is 63-9 since then. A *worse* Dallas team beat SA earlier this year and in a seven-game series last year. I'm not even a Mavericks fan, I'm just tired of seeing people give the Spurs more credit than they deserve anymore. The power team that the Spurs used to be is over.
Refs have finally figured out that Bowen does nothing but hack people all of the time, and he actually gets called for fouls now. SA won't beat Dallas today, and if they beat Phoenix in the semis, which is questionable, they will only lose in the WCF. Please give Dallas the credit and respect they deserve, and stop treating SA like they're the New York Yankees.