This week in the NBA: Magic and Nets end playoff droughts, Westbrook stars
Odds and review of the NBA action
Only one play-off spot remains up for debate in the Eastern Conference, and with two games to play, Detroit Pistons are front runners to secure that slot.
In the week where Golden State Warriors won their last regular-season game at Oracle Arena, securing the Western Conference title in the process, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets found a route back to the play-offs too.
Before this week’s basketball action tips-off, we look into the past week in the NBA.
Brooklyn Nets & Orlando Magic
Not since the Dwight Howard era in Orlando have the Magic made the play-offs. Seven seasons of pain and misery for the fans have finally been rewarded, and they’ve clinched a play-off berth and the Southeast Divisional title.
With a record of 41-40 and a game to play, they’re finishing a season without a negative record for the first time in seven seasons too, guaranteeing they’ll finish at worst 41-41 this year.
The Nets haven’t had a drought for quite as long as the Magic, but they’re breaking a three-season spell without play-off games at the Barclays Centre.
Despite finishing fourth in the Atlantic division, they’ll enter the play-offs as sixth or seventh seeds, up against Toronto Raptors or Philadelphia 76ers.
Guard D’Angelo Russell has fronted the Nets charge this season and reinvigorated life into a city with fading basketball dreams in recent years. Like the Magic, they’ll finish 41-41 at worst this year, their first non-negative record since the 2013-14 season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has spent the majority of the season under the radar, and gone about his business quietly.
He’s not in the hunt for MVP this year, which looks to be between James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his Thunder side will go into the play-offs as sixth or seventh seeds.
But for the third straight year, Westbrook has averaged a triple-double over the season. Before him, Oscar Robertson was the only player to achieve it, an accomplishment widely considered impossible to repeat in the modern game.
With Westbrook averaging the trip-dub for a third straight season (23 points per game, 10.7 assists & 11 rebounds) and out of the running for MVP, it begs the question of whether his achievements are undervalued within the league due to the dominance of Harden and Giannis…
With the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference play-offs guaranteed, it seems strange to be including the Celtics in the losers list. But during their 116-108 home defeat to the Magic, they lost two of their stars to injury.
It’s not known how severe either injury is at the moment, but Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum may miss a pair of games apiece in the play-offs. Smart was taken out of the game against the Magic with a side-injury, while Tatum appeared to re-aggravate a shin contusion he’d been suffering with before.
On the plus side, their nearest challengers for fourth spot and home advantage in the play-offs, Indiana Pacers, lost out 108-96 to the Nets to see their challenge fade and hand the advantage to Celtics. They’ll face each other in the play-offs, with Boston leading the regular season match-up 3-1.
Dwayne Wade & Miami Heat
In his final season as an NBA player, it looks like Dwayne Wade won’t be able to drag his Miami Heat side into the play-offs for one final time.
The Heat sit 10th in the Eastern Conference with two games remaining, sharing the same 38-42 record as Charlotte Hornets, and one game back from the Pistons who hold the eighth seed with a 39-41 record.
With Wade declaring this season as ‘One Last Dance’ with the league, the two final must-win games come against the Sixers and the Nets. The Sixers may rest their star men, with their spot as third seed in the East guaranteed.
D Wade could bow out on a high though, with only 24 points needed in the final two games to overtake Elgin Baylor on the NBA all-time scoring charts.
Click here for the latest odds on the NBA
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing