Thursday, April 7, 2011
Playoff picture getting a little clearer
By ESPN Stats & Info
The NBA playoff picture became a little clearer after Wednesday’s action. Three of the eight spots in the Eastern Conference are locked up: the Orlando Magic will be the No. 4 seed, the Atlanta Hawks will be the No. 5 seed and the Indiana Pacers will be the No. 8 seed.
Yes the Pacers, who have flourished after their mid-season coaching change, clinched their first playoff appearance since 2006, when Rick Carlisle was coach and Jermaine O'Neal was their leading scorer. The Pacers clinching along with the New York Knicks clinching earlier this week means that two of the six longest active streaks without making the playoffs will end this season. The Memphis Grizzlies could become the third team to end a long postseason drought as they haven’t seen the playoffs in four seasons, but they have a tight hold on the Western Conference's No. 8 seed.
Speaking of the Knicks, they are now just one win away from clinching their first .500 season since 2000-01. The nine-year drought is the longest in franchise history and longest active streak in the NBA.
There were a few more clinchings on Wednesday and they all came from out West.
The San Antonio Spurs clinched the West's No. 1 seed after the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Golden State Warriors. During the Tim Duncan-era the Spurs have held the No. 1 seed five times including this season. On three of those occasions the Spurs have at least made the Conference Finals and twice have taken home the NBA title. On Wednesday, the Spurs also became the first team this season to reach 60 wins. It is the fourth 60-win season in team history and third since drafting Duncan in 1997. The only other teams with three 60-win seasons in that span are the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks (three each).
The Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the Northwest Division title for the first time since 2005 when they were the Seattle SuperSonics and Ray Allen was their leading scorer.
The New Orleans Hornets defeated the Houston Rockets and clinched a playoff spot for the third time in the last four years. The victory moved the Hornets into sixth place in the West, ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers by a tiebreaker and one game ahead of the Grizzlies.
And finally, the Miami Heat suffered a five-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, but LeBron James reached a personal milestone in the defeat. James eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for the seventh straight season. Every other NBA player who has scored 2,000 points in seven or more seasons is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The only season James failed to reach 2,000 points was his rookie season (2003-04).
Earlier this season, James notched 500 assists and tonight joined Oscar Robertson as the only players with six seasons of at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. In fact, only six players have ever recorded even one such season.