On the final night of the regular season, the Western Conference playoff race has just three of eight playoff seeds resolved.
A wild Tuesday night of basketball supplied plenty of twists with the Los Angeles Lakers topping the intrigue list. Center Andrew Bynum went down with a wincing knee injury in the second quarter and a San Antonio Light outfit that did not include resting starters Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan or Antonio McDyess nearly pushed L.A.'s losing streak to a half-dozen.
More will be known on Bynum's knee after an MRI Wednesday, according to reports out of L.A.
How important is Bynum's health to the Western Conference playoff landscape? Here's Dirk Nowitzki's take from a few nights ago:
"I still think it’s all wide open, but you got to think that when the Lakers go for it and with Bynum being a factor, they’re still the heavy favorites. They’re just so long. They have so many options that no other team has."
The Lakers looked alarmingly dysfunctional, but they squeaked out the win to remain in the driver's seat for the No. 2 seed. They'll get it with a win tonight at the Sacramento Kings in what should be a surreal scene during Arco Arena's possible last stand as an NBA venue.
What it means for the Dallas Mavericks: They'll enter tonight's finale against the New Orleans Hornets back in the the No. 3 hole after spending Monday night at No. 2. They could still finish as high as 2 and as low as 4 and play either the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies or the Hornets.
They won't know their fate until after the late-starting Lakers-Kings game. Most improbable is the 2-seed, which requires a Mavs win and a Lakers loss. Dallas will slip to the No. 4 seed (and play Denver, locked in at No. 5) with a loss and an Oklahoma City Thunder home win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Most probable for the Mavs is the three-seed, which would see them start the playoffs at home Saturday or Sunday against the No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers. Seagoville product LaMarcus Aldridge and company secured the sixth seed Tuesday with a home win over the Memphis Grizzlies, whose coach, Lionel Hollins, opted to rest Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.
The Mavs will get the No. 3 seed with a win and a Lakers win, or a loss to the Hornets and a Thunder loss.
The Grizzlies and Hornets will settle the seventh and eighth seeds tonight. Memphis plays at the Los Angeles Clippers, while the Hornets face a Mavs team that could opt to rest point guard Jason Kidd. New Orleans owns the tiebreaker with Memphis.
More from Dirk:
"Other than that [the Lakers with a healthy Bynum], everything is open. Even if Portland or Memphis or somebody down there [the 5-8 seeds] is going to beat somebody in the first round, I don’t even think that’s an upset. Teams are so good down there and playing so well. I mean Denver is a very tough five-seed."