Commentary

Playoff Push: East is all set, West almost there

The Nuggets and Hawks got their postseason tickets punched Monday.

Originally Published: April 11, 2008
By Maurice Brooks | ESPN.com

Warriors-SunsBarry Gossage/NBAE via Getty ImagesAl Harrington and the Warriors had their path to the playoffs blocked by Amare's Suns.

Indiana needed to take care of business against Washington in order to keep its postseason hopes alive. Golden State was in must-win mode against Phoenix.

The empty hugs and emotionless expressions moments after the final horn told you all you needed to know about whether they accomplished their shared playoff goal.

In the biggest games of their respective seasons, the Pacers and Warriors both came up short Monday and as a result, they will be watching instead of playing when the NBA playoffs begin on Saturday.

Watch The Push

Playoff Push The NBA Playoff Push on ESPN and ABC continues this week. All NBA games are available in HD, and all ESPN telecasts are simulcast live on ESPN360.com and ESPN Mobile TV.

This week's schedule:

Date Matchup
Wednesday New Orleans at Dallas, 7 p.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com
Utah at San Antonio, 9:30 p.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com
All times Eastern
The Pacers needed victories in their final two games coupled by a pair of losses by the Hawks in order to claim the final spot in the East. They didn't play like a desperate team, falling behind early before settling for a 117-110 defeat.

Indiana's loss means the Hawks are playoff-bound for the first time in nine years -- the longest postseason drought in the NBA -- and the Eastern Conference field of eight is all set.

No. 1 Boston will face No. 8 Atlanta: Good news Hawks' fans, you are in the playoffs. Bad news Hawks' fans, you are playing the Celtics. Atlanta is the first opponent in Boston's way en route to the Finals.

No. 2 Detroit will face No. 7 Philadelphia: The battle-tested Pistons want to make up for a disappointing ending to last year, while the Sixers will try to build off their strong momentum from the second half of the season.

No. 3 Orlando will face No. 6 Toronto: Dwight Howard vs. Chris Bosh will be fun to watch.

No. 4 Cleveland will face No. 5 Washington: For the third straight year Gilbert and Co. will try to get past LeBron's crew in the first round.

Out West, the Warriors outscored the Suns by 19 in the third quarter to take a five-point lead into the final period.

Apparently that wasn't enough, as Phoenix dominated the last quarter en route to a 122-116 see-ya-next-season win. Baron Davis scored just seven points in the first half on 2-for-13 shooting and didn't play again after intermission.

Golden State's loss punched the final playoff ticket in the West for Denver, although seeds for the eight teams -- Lakers, Hornets, Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Suns, Mavericks and Nuggets -- have not been determined.

Tuesday's Playoff Push Game Of Note

Here's what you need to know: The Lakers can clinch the Western Conference title with a win or a Hornets loss. The Hornets can clinch the Southwest Division title with a win.

Kings at Lakers -- Not too long ago, the Kings and Lakers had the most-heated rivalry in the league. Although it has cooled down in recent years, the stakes will be high Tuesday when the two clubs meet in Los Angeles.

The Lakers are trying to put the finishing touches on securing home court throughout the West playoffs by virtue of being the top seed, while the Kings are more than happy to play the role of spoiler. For proof, just ask the Hornets, who lost 94-91 in Sacramento on Saturday.

The Lakers (56-25) have already clinched the Pacific Division title and with a victory over the Kings will open the playoffs at home against either the Nuggets or Mavericks.

Clippers at Hornets -- New Orleans, which trails the Lakers by a half-game, hosts the Clippers on Tuesday. A loss by the Lakers, coupled by Hornets' victories over the Clippers and at Dallas on Wednesday, would clinch the top spot in the West for New Orleans in the closest conference race since the NBA switched to a 16-team playoff format in 1983-84.

More scenarios -- If the Lakers and Hornets both win, they also clinch the top two seeds in the West.

There would then remain a chance for a four-way tie for third place, depending on the results of games Wednesday, the last night of the regular season.

San Antonio, Utah, Phoenix and Houston would all be battling for that spot, which would go to the Northwest Division champion Jazz if they beat the Spurs on Wednesday. Utah would then own the tiebreaker advantage against all three teams.

The Spurs would be guaranteed third by beating Utah, and still could be No. 2 if the Hornets lose their last two games. New Orleans visits Dallas in the season finale.

Dallas will earn the No. 7 seed by winning that game. If the Mavericks lose, Denver would finish seventh if it beats visiting Memphis on Wednesday.

Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor at ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Maurice Brooks, former Race to the MVP columnist at NBA.com, is an NBA editor at ESPN.com.