We're two days away from the most important game of the season: a home contest against the surging Charlotte Bobcats that may essentially decide the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. For months, the goal of every half-decent East playoff team was to avoid the bottom two seeds and sure first-round losses to the mighty Heat and Pacers. Any spot from 3-6 was fine, just avoid No. 7 or No. 8.
Are we sure that's true anymore? Would it really be so bad to fall to No. 7 considering how the Pacers are playing?
Sunday's 107-88 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks -- the same Atlanta Hawks that have won nine of their last 29 games -- was somehow worse than the score makes it seem. The Pacers trailed by 22 points after the first quarter and 32 at halftime. They scored 23 first-half points against the league's 15th-best defense. They benched Roy Hibbert for the entire second half, much to Hibbert's chagrin. Frank Vogel tried to sell it as resting Hibbert for the playoffs, but I don't buy it.
Angry Roy Hibbert pic.twitter.com/RgVXiTYckO— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 7, 2014
Now, it's true that some very good teams have limped to the finish line, only to pick it back up in the playoffs. It can be hard to get up for games when you have such a large lead over the field. It's not like the Heat have been much better of late, though they have more liberty to coast with two titles and an older team.
But this goes beyond a slump. Consider the records of the three teams the Wizards could face in the playoffs since January 1:
- Indiana: 28-20, +1.7 point differential.
- Toronto: 31-17, +4.7 point differential.
- Chicago: 33-14, +4.5 point differential
- Chicago: 18-7, +5.7 point differential.
- Toronto: 16-8, +3.3 point differential.
- Indiana: 13-13, -2.8 point differential.
- J Michael had the same thought as I re: Indiana.
- There was a lot of talk about Saturday's blowout loss to the Bulls being a teachable moment. Maybe. I just think Chicago is so tough when both teams are in back-to-back situations. Also, missing Nene really hurt.
- Joakim Noah on Bradley Beal, via Truth About It: "He can't even have a beer, man. Can you imagine? The guy has been shooting the ball like that, and he can't even have a beer."
- Jason Reid believes John Wall must raise his game in the playoffs. Well, yeah, he does. So does everyone else, though.
- I think it's too early for this kind of thought w/r/t Otto Porter, but I hope what we've seen really is the start of something.
- Remember Javaris Crittenton? This Outside The Lines story on his current situation is crazy. Gang ties? Dwight Howard's uncle as the lead prosecutor?
- Vox.com launched last night with this cover article on how intelligence only serves to confirm our ideals rather than challenging them. I think sports fandom (and sportswriting) often works in a similar way.
- If you need a laugh, here's a Reddit thread with people making photoshops of Randy Wittman being hit in the face. Hat tip to @padlevel on that one.