AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Never mind that the Hawks currently have 11 fewer wins than the Warriors, pointing up the disparity in the quantity of quality teams between the East and West conferences.
The Warriors will be missed. The feel-good story of last season's playoffs found themselves on the outs after a 122-116 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Even if Denver were to lose its finale to Memphis and Golden State were to win against Seattle, Denver gets in by virtue of its superior head-to-head record with the Warriors.
"The teams we have left in the West are balanced teams," ESPN analyst Jalen Rose explains. "The Warriors' style is exciting, but they just weren't balanced like the rest of the contenders."
"We Believe" falls short with 48 wins. The Warriors could still tie the NBA mark for best record without making the playoffs with a win over the Sonics, who might be preoccupied with renting a fleet of moving vans and rustling up some Styrofoam packing peanuts. The mark of 49-33 is held by the 1971-72 Suns.
Davis' ending was tough. The man who spearheaded the Warriors magical upset of the Mavs in last year's playoffs was on the bench after failing to find the range in the first half. Look for plenty of Davis and coach Don Nelson stories in the days ahead. Not pretty.
Denver is in. Facing New Orleans might not be a bad thing.
"Denver has players with significant playoff experience," Rose says. "Not as much for a young team like the Hornets."
The East pairings were all nailed down as a result of Monday's games. The West pairings are mostly still up in the air.
Another important development on the court was Utah's 105-96 win over Houston that assured the Jazz would have the tiebreaker if the two teams finish with the same record. If these two end up squaring off as the 4-5 seeds carrying the same records, that would give the Jazz home-court advantage.
Nobody wants a piece of a Utah team with home-court advantage because the Jazz seem unbeatable in Salt Lake City.
Over in the East, Indiana's loss to the Wizards took any pressure off the Hawks. They had needed a win against either Orlando on Tuesday or Miami on Wednesday.
Imagine if Atlanta needed those wins, lost to Orlando and couldn't get it done against the NBDL Heat? That would be rich.
"I'm happy for Atlanta and their fans. They haven't seen the playoffs since the days of Mookie Blaylock," Rose said.
Instead, Atlanta can now get ready to face Boston in the first round.
The playoffs start Saturday.
Andrew Ayres is an NBA editor for ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" was blasting, Philadelphia 76ers guard Andre Miller was unlacing his ankle braces, the Cleveland Cavaliers' players were cursing and throwing towels on the way to their locker room and the 76ers' public relations department was setting up for a fan appreciation uniform and shoe giveaway.
Except official Greg Williard wasn't leaving the court; he was calling over his colleagues and heading to the video monitor.
After 81 games -- well, make that almost 81 games -- the playoff seeds of the Cavs and Sixers may very well have come down to a Williard whistle that was buried in the din of screams at the Wachovia Center on Monday night.
He was right about that. Brown's putback of a LeBron James miss, which was blocked by Dalembert, no doubt was altered by Dalembert's running into Brown. And the video showed the ball was out of Brown's hands before the red light illuminated.
As for James' potentially traveling as he stumbled to get the shot up at the foul line or Dalembert getting pushed by Zydrunas Ilgauskas as he landed, those will forever remain as non-calls.
Instead, after Brown calmly made both free throws to give Cleveland a 91-90 win, the Sixers lost out on the No. 6 seed and are now locked into heading to Detroit with No. 7 instead. Meanwhile, the Cavs clinched the No. 4 seed and an extremely valuable home-court edge in what is expected to be a marathon with the Wizards.
Almost six months of grinding and positioning, settled by a small piece of fate.
"He pushed me," Dalembert protested afterward. "You can see it on the play."
Ilgauskas, his head in an ice bag to nurse a bump when he banged heads with Dalembert, pled amnesia. Brown, and the rest of the Cavs, meanwhile, pled a sentence of gratitude to a fortunate turn of luck in a season when they've had mostly bad.
Even on this night, the Cavs probably lost starting shooting guard Sasha Pavlovic for the playoffs with a severely sprained left ankle.
"I heard a whistle but I didn't think they were going to change it," Brown said. "I wear 33, not 23."
Brian Windhorst covers the Cavs and the NBA for the Akron Beacon Journal
NEW YORK -- Ex-Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts talked to 1050 ESPN.com Monday night as he attended the Knicks' home finale against the Celtics. It was the first time that Checketts, who owns season tickets, has been at the Garden for an NBA game since Larry Brown was the Knicks coach two seasons ago.
Checketts, who runs Sports Capital Partners, which owns the St. Louis Blues, among other franchises, did not hold back in his assessments. Here are the highlights:
• Checketts basically said that Isiah Thomas should be fired. Checketts said, "The bottom line is that with the highest payroll in the history of the game for years and years, he doesn't have a playoff win to show for it. That's how you make that evaluation."
• Checketts said the Knicks don't have a winning environment.
"They have just made a lot of mistakes," Checketts said. "There is no environment that demands winning. You can watch it on the bench and you see Zach Randolph shoot an airball from 3, come out of the game and get congratulated by everybody. I think Jeff Van Gundy would have spit on him. That's too dramatic, but there is not an environment that demands winning, that expects winning and the kind of character guys that want to win."
Andrew Marchand covers the Knicks for 1050espnradio in New York
Ramon Sessions, Bucks guard: In a meaningless game, the rookie from Nevada dished 24 assists, one short of the rookie record shared by Ernie DiGregorio and Nate McMillan, in a 151-135 loss to the Bulls. Sessions also had 20 points and eight rebounds and just might have made some wise fantasy player's season.
Baron Davis, Warriors guard: Misses 11 of 13 shots, good for only seven points in a do-or-die game in Phoenix. "I gave Baron a much-needed rest in the second half," Warriors head coach Don Nelson said. "I gave him a half off." Whoa.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I wear 33, not 23."
-- Cavs forward Devin Brown, on the surprise of getting a call (like LeBron or MJ, No. 23) in the final second that allowed him to hit the winning free throws against Philadelphia. • See Monday's daily leaders
-- Andrew Ayres
Here's a look at the key games coming up on ESPN and ABC:
Wednesday: Hornets-Mavs 7 p.m., Jazz-Spurs, 9:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPN360.com
Mark (Memphis): Will the Spurs make it out of the first round?
John Hollinger: I'm beginning to question that. Even if Manu comes back 100 percent, their offense has looked stuck in the mud for the last month-plus. And their potential pairings all look bad -- they match up terribly against Phoenix and I sure as heck wouldn't want to face Utah.
AP Photo/H. Rumph, Jr.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James prepares to celebrate while teammate Devin Brown hits the deciding free throw with 0.2 seconds left, giving the Cavs a 91-90 win over Philly.