Breakfast Special: For the Right to Lose to Milwaukee and Golden State

15 of the 16 playoff teams are set in the NBA. The top 5 seeds in both conferences are either mathematically or functionally locked up, with the lone exception of the Nuggets and Rockets; Denver is half a game up (one in the loss column) on Houston and the Rockets have the tiebreaker for the 2 seed.

Houston can put heavy pressure on Denver by beating Oklahoma City on the road in a game that could mean sixth, seventh, or eighth for the Thunder; Denver has to win at Utah then beat Minnesota in a game that had a lot more implications for both teams on the last day of last season.

In the East, the sixth and seventh seeds have been clinched by Brooklyn and Orlando; which order they finish in is still an open question, but they’re in.

In the West, half a game separates the 47-33 Thunder from the 47-34 Spurs and Clippers, but in the grand scheme, a pick-your-poison derby between the Warriors, Nuggets, and Rockets for the right to thrash all three of those squads out of the playoffs isn’t exactly an arms race.

The last remaining seed? Detroit is 39-41. Charlotte and Miami are both 38-42. And “the right to get swept by Milwaukee” is the prize on the table. Better to have a sub-1 percent chance at Zion Williamson.

But enough playoff previews. The East is going to go chalk, the West is going to be “top three plus the Blazers-Jazz winner”, and we’ll eventually realize the first round of the NBA playoffs is a stupid, pointless waste of two weeks of everyone’s time before the real playoffs start in May. 2014 was a fluke.

Anyway, there were 14 games in the NBA on Sunday, so let’s get to it.

What the Hell, Denver?

The Nuggets had a chance to all but ice the Rockets and secure the 2 seed.

Instead, they lost in Portland 115-108.

Mind you, the Blazers are the impending 4 seed, but it’s not like the Blazers are getting past the Warriors (or the Nuggets past the Rockets, home court or otherwise) in the second round. We know how the Western Conference Finals are going to set up.

Damian Lillard dumped in 30 points on 9-of-19 shooting, Enes Kanter continues his no-Nurk-call-the-Turk play as he had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Al-Farouq Aminu stepped up in this one with 23 points and 11 rebounds of his own to power the Portland attack.

Denver was without Nikola Jokic, and it showed. Jokic was a DNP-Rest as the Nuggets close the season with a back-to-back, coach Mike Malone evidently reasoning that if he had to punt one, let it be the one the Nuggs were least likely to win.

And if Jokic posts a pair of triple doubles in the Jazz and Timberwolves games, Malone might just have made the case for Coach of the Year.

The Blazers closed this one on a 17-3 run to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and Dame was man of the match:

What the Hell, Utah?

The Jazz know they’re not catching Portland in the standings, so they might as well just get ready to hit the road for Game 1.

But losing to the #LOLakers 113-109 after leading by two following the third quarter? That’s just a bad look.

Donovan Mitchell had 19 points on 5-of-17 shooting, while the LeBron James-less Lakers shot 51.7 percent as a team and got 32 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 22 from JaVale McGee.

The Lakers not only shot the ball well but hit the offensive glass on their infrequent misses, pulling down 16 offensive rebounds against the Jazz’s 25 defensive boards.

So let’s see…shoot 51.7 percent, rebound almost 40 percent of your misses to extend the possession…yeah, even losing the turnover battle 16-11 couldn’t slow the Lakers down in this one, and there’s your four-point win.

It’s getting a little Kentavious all up in the highlights:

Emeril Adebayo

Basketball is a game where the time it takes for a camera flash to go off is practically an eternity, and it can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Bam Adebayo released his game-winning shot just a noodge too late, the referees waved it off, Miami got forced into overtime, and the Toronto Raptors took control, won the final frame 14-6, and took the game 117-109.

And now, instead of being tied for eighth, the Heat are tied for ninth, and one game makes a big difference when you’ve only got two left.

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 23 points and 10 rebounds on just 8-of-10 shooting, Norman Powell had 23 points of his own off the Toronto bench, and the Raptors got the job done at the free throw line, hitting 23-of-27 compared to Miami’s 14-of-19.

When you have eight more attempts but the other team has one extra miss, that’ll swing a game that goes to overtime.

The P-Skills that pay the P-Bills:

Lightning Round!

OK, we’ve got 11 of these, so let’s keep it simple.

San Antonio beat Cleveland 112-90 to finish their road campaign 16-25 even as they’re 31-9 at home.

LaMarcus Aldridge led a balanced Spurs attack with 18 points, 10 Spurs players had at least six points, and the squad shot 52.4 percent from the field and 40.9 percent (9-of-22) from three.

A team performance deserves team highlights:

Oklahoma City joined the 47-win club that’s tied for last place among West playoff teams by beating Minnesota 132-126 on the road.

Russell Westbrook and Paul George had 27 points apiece in this defense-optional matchup, and Westbrook added 10 rebounds and 15 assists to complete the triple-double.

Oh, and Steven Adams was plus-31 in his 27 minutes, meaning the Thunder were minus-25 in 21 minutes without him.

That’s 32 triple-doubles on the season and 136 for his career for Russ:

Detroit choked at home in a game they could’ve all but wrapped up a playoff spot by winning, losing to Charlotte 104-91.

Kemba Walker had 31 points on 11-of-29 shooting, pulling out his best Dark Ages Game but somehow not costing his team the game in the process.

Charlotte turned the ball over just five times, their defense held Detroit to 37 percent shooting and 24.4 percent from three, and Bob’s your uncle.

NBA TV helpfully stripped out Kemba’s many bricks for a highlight reel:

The Brooklyn Nets clinched a playoff spot in Indiana, beating the Pacers 108-96 and ensuring that the Pacers’ 2016 Grizzlies-like collapse continues unabated (more on this tomorrow in Pacers Tuesday.)

D’Angelo Russell had 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, the Nets out-rebounded Indiana 52-33, and Myles Turner got hurt because the gods hate the Pacers almost as much as they hate the Knicks.

Brooklyn just flew a giant middle finger in the face of Danny Ainge. Far from having their franchise ruined by those traded-away draft picks, Brooklyn built a roster through castoffs, late first-rounders, and a coach in Kenny Atkinson who completely clowned Nate McMillan out there.

This is how great things start:

Devin Harris made one shot in the Dallas Mavericks’ 129-127 overtime road win in Memphis.

It was a stepback three that sealed the victory.

Delon Wright had a triple-double in the losing effort (20 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists), but it wasn’t enough to overcome a Total Team Effort from Dallas led by 24 points off the bench from Trey Burke.

Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t walk into the sunset without setting one more career milestone:

You like highlights. It’s why you’re here. We have highlights.

The Rockets didn’t just beat the Phoenix Suns.

They pulled Phoenix’s pants down and got one of the farm kids from the local 4-H club to demonstrate how they do castrations out in cattle country to make Texas BBQ.

Well OK, not really, but the Suns may as well have gotten their manly bits chopped off in a 149-113 loss.

Houston shot 27-of-57 from three, extending their own record for most made threes in a game. They shot 26-of-43 from two-point range (60.5 percent) and posted an eFG% of .665 and a 3PAR of .570 because advanced stats are more fun when you break them.

James Harden had 30 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists along with a plus-39. Seven Rockets got into double figures.

Put simply, the Suns got their nuts cut off in public.

And if the Rockets combined every three they made tonight with every miss they had in a row during Game 7 of last year’s WCF, they’d shoot 50 percent from three.

You get a 3! You get a 3! YOU GET A 3! EVERYONE GETS A 3!!!

John Collins was listed out with an ankle injury. Trae Young was a DNP-Rest. Giannis Antetokoumpo actually played…

…and the Milwaukee Bucks only beat the Atlanta Hawks at home by 8, 115-107.

Mind you, Greekazoid had 30 points and nine rebounds, and the Bucks got their 60th win, guaranteeing home court throughout the playoffs.

Milwaukee shot just 44 percent from the field and 22 percent from three but won anyway thanks to the Hawks shooting 39.6 percent overall and 37.8 percent from long range.

Oh, and the Hawks made just 10-of-19 free throws. Can’t win if you don’t make your free throws.

Get your ice-cold Frosty, Sconnies:

The Orlando Magic clinched the sorry-ass Southeast Division, not that divisions matter a lick in the NBA anymore, by beating the Celtics in Boston 116-108.

The win was Orlando’s 10th in their last 12 games, an impressive run that took them from looking like a lottery team at 31-38 to a tie for sixth and guaranteeing at least a .500 record.

Nikola Vucevic had 25 points to lead the starters on 12-of-22 shooting while Evan Fournier added 24 points on 8-of-16 and Terrence Ross upstaged both of those guys with 26 points off the bench.

How better to celebrate 407 Day (for Orlando’s area code, on April 7th) than with the first playoff appearance in the wretched East—gods, what a trash fire—since 2012?

The Knicks beat the Wizards because they can’t even tank right.

Mario Hezonja had 30 points, the Knicks shot 51.2 percent from the field and 50 percent (17-of-34) from long range, and they got the win 113-110 despite losing the turnover battle 15-8 because they made the shots they did get when they didn’t give the ball away for free.

With their 16th win, the Knicks beat my prediction of 15 wins, all thanks to Super Mario:

The Warriors closed their run at Oracle Arena with a win to go to 30-11 at home and 56-24 overall, and they did it by beating the snot out of the Los Angeles Clippers 131-104.

Stephen Curry had 27 points and a plus-35, Draymond Green also had a plus-35 on a near-triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists), DeMarcus Cousins stunk out the joint (4-of-15 shooting, 12 points, minus-1), but that was fine.

The Warriors not named Boogie shot a combined 59.8 percent in the win.

Highlights, as the Dubs busted out the “We Believe” throwbacks as if to tell Oakland that the Silicon Valley suits in their overpriced pleasure palace in San Francisco will never bring the atmosphere you get from the East Bay:

And finally, the New Orleans Pelicans did the one thing they’ve done well all year—score a buttload of points in a shootout—to ensure the Sacramento Kings finish with a losing season.

The 133-129 win included a combined 210 field goal attempts, 35 made threes on 82 tries, and three Pelicans players—Ian Clark (31), Elfrid Payton (26), and Jahlil Okafor (23)—with at least 20.

Wait…that’s the Pellies’ roster? Hoo boy, maybe they should hire Sam Hinkie after all.

Seriously, what a Dumpster fire, but if the Nets and Magic have taught us anything, it’s that a well-run franchise can bounce back, and Dell Demps is gone.

Hold out hope, Pelicans fans and Pacer-fan Pelicans journalists (yeah, I see you there, Ethan.)

POPCORN! Get your hot buttered popcorn, get it while it’s hot, get it while it’s buttered:

So nice to know Elfrid didn’t lose his superpowers when he cut off the brim of his hair:

There will be a Breakfast Special tomorrow. It won’t be about Monday highlights because there are no Monday games thanks to some dumb college game happening that I won’t watch.

Instead, you’re getting a best-of compilation from stuff I can find on Twitter. It’ll be brought to you by the letters T, B, and A, and probably the numbers 41 and 3.

Later today on Pace and Space: Every NBA Team’s Greatest Player. That’s gonna be fun too.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading this super-sized edition!