Updated: April 27, 2012, 2:08 AM ET

Saved By The Bell: Let Best Season Begin

By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com

The final night of the NBA regular season felt a little like the last day of school. In Toronto, the Raptors and Nets squared off in a stellar game of charades. Down Ontario Highway 401 in Detroit, they cued up a film strip for the Pistons and 76ers. Meanwhile in Washington, the Verizon Center game ops folks screened Franco Zefferelli's "Romeo & Juliet" for the Wizards and Heat.

Despite a slew of perfunctory games between teams with little at stake, the night wasn't completely without consequence. With their 107-75 thrashing of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls clinched home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

Derrick Rose
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireJoakim Noah and Derrick Rose enjoyed the regular-season finale.

The Atlanta Hawks wrapped up home-court advantage over the Boston Celtics by virtue of their 106-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks. With the loss the reigning champs settle for the No. 7 seed out West and will face Oklahoma City in Round 1, though the Denver Nuggets' 131-102 thumping of the Minnesota Timberwolves made it a fait accompli.

The Memphis Grizzlies succeeded in their quest to secure the home court against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Grizz fielded their strongest lineup -- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol -- against an Orlando Magic team that started Chris Duhon and Von Wafer in the backcourt, while resting Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick. The Magic put up a brief fight in the third quarter, but Memphis pulled away for a 88-76 victory.

Though neither team put up much of fight, the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers formalized their positions in the Eastern Conference bracket as the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds respectively. Despite the aforementioned lack of fight, the Knicks were still able to prevail as the latest team to feast on the Charlotte Bobcats, who lost their 23rd consecutive game. The Bobcats finish with a winning percentage of .106, the worst in NBA history.

The catalog of notables who sat out Thursday's action included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony,Tyson Chandler, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Gerald Wallace, DeMar DeRozan, in addition to the previous mentioned Magic guard platoon. Instead, they convened in Washington, D.C., for a Goodman League game.

Bryant's decision to sit -- prudent though it was -- deprived fans of what would've been the most compelling event of the night. Had Bryant scored 38 points against the Sacramento Kings, he would've surpassed Kevin Durant to win his third scoring title, and his first since 2006-07.

Conventional wisdom holds that two teams in the East are far superior to the rest of the field -- the Bulls and Heat. Neither squad is flawless and, who knows, in a short season with a high degree of randomness, anything is possible.

The Western Conference seems wide open. There seems to be persistent skepticism of the Spurs, the No. 1 seed, largely based on their unceremonious departure from last season's playoffs as a top seed. The second-seeded Thunder will have to go through the Mavericks, a team that's struggling but well-seasoned. If Oklahoma City survives Dallas, the Lakers, another team with a championship pedigree, would be next up, provided they can fend off Denver.

Forty-eight hours after the most lackluster night of the season, fans will be treated to the most competitive basketball in 10 months starting Saturday.

Dimes past: 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13-14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20-21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

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