Lakers, Wizards control fate; others need help
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are playing to dodge the Spurs. The Wizards want a win for the first crack at LeBron.
|Eastern Conference scenarios|
If Washington, Indiana and Chicago all win:
• 5. Washington (42-40)
• 6. Indiana (41-41, 6-10 in div.)
• 7. Chicago (41-41, 4-12 in div.
• 8. Milwaukee (40-42)
If Washington and Indiana win; Chicago loses:
If Washington and Chicago win, Indiana loses:
If Washington wins, Indiana and Chicago lose:
If Washington, Indiana and Chicago all lose:
If Indiana wins, Washington and Chicago lose:
If Chicago wins, Washington and Indiana lose:
If Indiana and Chicago win, Washington loses:
Los Angeles and Washington are the teams in most control of their playoff futures as the NBA's regular season heads into its final night Wednesday. Also to be determined: the postseason destinations of Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee and Sacramento.
The Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets, who had their own postseason hopes before a poor finish. If Los Angeles wins, it would open against No. 2 seed Phoenix, forcing the Kings to face defending champion San Antonio in the opening round.
If the Lakers lose, they finish with the same record as the Kings, who would own the tiebreaker and take the No. 7 seed. Bryant claims to not care which team the Lakers play -- but he averaged 42.5 points this season against the Suns.
"Not really. We just have to prepare,'' he said. "Whoever we play, it's going to be tough because it's two great teams. We just have to make sure we do our homework and go out there and try to execute.''
Against San Antonio, which has defensive ace Bruce Bowen, Bryant averaged 30 points but shot only 38 percent.
Washington (41-40) has a one-game lead over Indiana and Chicago for fifth place in the East. If the Wizards beat Detroit -- which figures to use mostly reserves -- they would lock up fifth and open against fourth-seeded Cleveland.
"When we ended our season last year, it was in the fifth spot,'' Wizards star Gilbert Arenas said, "so we're in fifth spot until somebody takes it from us. And the only people that can take it from us is the Detroit Pistons.''
The Wizards can also finish fifth if the Bulls lose at home to Toronto. The Pacers host Orlando.
If Chicago and Indiana lose Wednesday, the East will have three sub-.500 teams in the postseason.
The fifth-place team avoids having to play a division champion in the first round. Detroit won the Central Division and is the No. 1 seed, while Southeast champ Miami is second and New Jersey is No. 3 after winning the Atlantic.
Washington's victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday night means the Bucks will need help to avoid finishing eighth and facing the NBA-best Pistons in the first round.
The Central Division is sending all five of its teams to the postseason, the first time that has happened since the Midwest Division did it in 1985-86.
A couple of matchups in the West were set Tuesday night when the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers to clinch the No. 5 seed. They will open against Dallas, which has the second-best record in the West but falls to fourth because it is in the same division as San Antonio.
The Clippers open against No. 3 seed Denver, the Northwest Division champion. Los Angeles (46-35) has home-court advantage because it has a better record than the Nuggets (44-37).
The postseason opens Saturday.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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