SportsPulse: Despite recent struggles we still have the Lakers as top team in our bubble power rankings. Two teams on the rise early in the bubble: Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns.
The Boston Celtics led by as many as 40 points on the way to a wire-to-wire rout of the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Coach Brad Stevens knows the 122-100 win is essentially meaningless.
With the Raptors and Celtics in line for the second and third seeds in the Eastern Conference, respectively, a meeting in the playoffs is a strong possibility. If that happens, Stevens said you can toss Friday’s result out the window.
“This game will mean nothing if we get that opportunity again,” Stevens said. “They’re a really good team. I thought they missed a lot of open looks and it just wasn’t their night. Our guys played well, but it won’t mean anything in a couple weeks.”
The Celtics handed the defending champs their first loss of the season restart in decisive fashion. Boston took a 15-point lead into the break, then blew the game open in the third quarter with a 36-12 run. The Celtics led 91-57 heading into the fourth, and both teams went to the bench the rest of the way.
Despite the blowout, Raptors coach Nick Nurse felt the same way as his counterpart.
“I hate to say it, but there’s nothing really I learned,” Nurse said. “The only thing I probably did learn is we’ve got to get a couple of our guys playing a little better.”
Spurs 119, Jazz 111: San Antonio moved to 10th place in the West with a much-needed win as Utah rested Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert.
Grizzlies 121, Thunder 92: Memphis dominated to finally get its first win of the restart and solidify its hold on eighth place in the West.
Nets 119, Kings 106: Caris LeVert had 22 points as Brooklyn took control in the second quarter and rolled from there to clinch a playoff berth.
Pelicans 118, Wizards 107: New Orleans won without Zion Williamson to improve its play-in chances, while eliminating Washington from playoff contention.
Celtics 122, Raptors 100: Boston led by as many as 40 on the way to a wire-to-wire win that keeps alive its slim hopes of catching Toronto for second in the East.
All times Eastern. All games also available on League Pass.
- Clippers vs. Blazers, 1 (TNT)
- Jazz vs. Nuggets, 3:30 (TNT)
- Lakers vs. Pacers, 6 (TNT)
- Suns vs. Heat, 7:30
- Bucks vs. Mavericks, 8:30 (ESPN)
State of the playoff race
The eight playoff teams in the East are now set, with seeding the only thing left to be decided. The Wizards’ loss Friday eliminated them from contention. The Celtics maintained a slim chance of getting the No. 2 seed with a rout of the Raptors, but Toronto and Boston still appear likely to settle into second and third place, respectively.
The Sixers tightened the race below that, pulling into a tie with the Pacers for fifth place a game behind the Heat. Each of those teams have four games left to determine first-round matchups.
The top of the West remains largely unchanged after Friday’s games. The Jazz dropped a half game behind the Rockets for fourth place, while the Thunder failed to gain any ground. Still, seeds 3-6 are remain separated by just 2½ games. Matchups will be critical in deciding who advances out of the first round, so it will be interesting to see if teams engage in any chicanery to put themselves in position for a more favorable draw.
The Grizzlies’ first win in the bubble was huge for them, but a hit to the teams chasing them for eighth place. Memphis leads Portland by a game, with the Spurs two games back. The Pelicans and Suns are 2½ games behind the Grizzlies and will need help to get into the play-in scenario.
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