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A Thrilling Finish

The last two days of the regular season are filled with plenty of suspense and enough playoff possibilities to make your head spin. Folks in these parts are interested in where Washington will wind up, with the Wizards battling with New Jersey and Orlando for the sixth, seventh and eighth spots.

New Jersey, which finishes the season at home against Chicago on Wednesday, took care of business last night against the Knicks to move within ½ of the Wizards for sixth in the East. New Jersey and Orlando both believe they can catch the Wizards in some capacity - New Jersey can bump them to seventh and Orlando can bump them to eighth - but if the Wizards beat Orlando tonight at home and win tomorrow in Indiana, they get the sixth seed and Toronto, simple as that. A win over the Magic tonight secures no less than seventh for Washington.

That's why Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said this morning that he isn't too concerned about the teams breathing down his neck. "Whether it's New Jersey or Orlando, we have to make a stand for ourselves. We were so good, the middle part of the season. We had a 7 ½ game lead and we kept hearing, 'Miami is going to get us, Miami is going to get us.' Miami got us. Now we're hearing, 'New Jersey is going to get us. Orlando is trying to get us,' " Jordan said. "Our plan is, we've got two games left to stand on our feet and to hold our ground. Whether we're shorthanded or not, doesn't matter. Our will and determination, just on those principles, should say we want to work as hard as we can, play as hard as we can. Winning takes care of everything."

There are two other races to keep an eye on as well. Cleveland and Chicago are still in a fight for the second seed in the East, which is significant because the league's silly seeding plan - which awards division champions one of the top four seeds, regardless of record - means that the losing team gets the fifth seed - and the defending champion Miami Heat.

If the Cavaliers defeat Philadelphia tonight, the Bulls will be in a must-win situation tomorrow in New Jersey. A win and they don't have to worry about Miami, Cleveland or Detroit until the conference finals. Talk about prime real estate. But if the Cavaliers lose tonight, the Bulls would have the No. 2 locked up and you'd have to wonder if they'd want to go all out the last game of the season - against a possible first round opponent. They might be willing to give New Jersey the game, especially if the Wizards lose one or both of these last two and drop to seventh.

"We're ready for five, six teams," Bulls Coach Scott Skiles said earlier this week. "We're almost done and we've probably done a lot of meaningless work. We don't have a choice, because we want to be ready."

Then, you move over to the Western Conference, where the battle for the seventh/eighth spot in the Western Conference between the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers is quite interesting. The Lakers have already clinched a playoff spot, but could slip below Golden State with two Warriors wins and a Lakers' loss against Sacramento, which seems unlikely.

The Warriors need to win remaining games againt Dallas and Portland or hope the Clippers lose one more time to either Phoenix or New Orleans, so that they can secure the franchise's first playoff appearance in 13 years. Most around the league are rooting for the Warriors to get in, just so that we can see what kind of fireworks a series between Dallas (and owner Mark Cuban) and Golden State (and Warriors Coach and former Mavericks Coach Don Nelson).

So, in the words of Brendan Haywood, sit back with "the popcorn and the Twizzlers" and enjoy.

By Michael Lee  |  April 17, 2007; 1:53 PM ET
 
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Comments

Orlando scares me tonight. Was in Philly over the weekend and Dwight Howard was an absolute BEAST. 35 points and the kid didn't miss a shot in the first half.

Having said that, the way this season is going I wouldn't be surprised if the Wiz slipped to 7 and drew the Bulls in the first round. It's just that kind of year -- and get 'way from me with that curse talk!

Posted by: iceberg | April 17, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Can one of y'all answer a dumb question for me: How come the Commissioner of the NBA is a white guy? Maybe we could ask the same question about the NFL. Is it that the owners are largely white and he's their guy?

Posted by: Ignorant NBA guy | April 17, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I could be catty and say Brendan "Pine Sol" Haywood knows from popcorn and Twizzlers, since he's virtually taken root on the bench lately.

But that would be wrong. On so many levels.

Posted by: iceberg | April 17, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Michael:
I don't think the Wizards can make it out of the first round against either Detroit, Chicago or Toronto with their current roster, so I'm wondering what the implications of the various scenarios might be long term. For example:

- How will the Wizards' off-season moves be affected if: (1) they lose to Toronto in a high-scoring series vs. (2) getting clobbered by a defensive team like Chicago vs. (3) being beat by a veteran team like Detroit?
- If the Wizards are swept in 4 games, they get 2 home playoff games. If they stretch it to 6 games, Abe gets the gate from 3 home playoff games. How much additional money is that extra game worth, and how might it impact spending this summer?
- If the Wizards are swept and look especially bad, does the clock start ticking on EJ? (I saw that EJ made comments the other day for the second time this season about the level of "talent" on the squad. That either is a shot at Grunfeld or an alibi/excuse that inadvertently takes a shot at Grunfeld and his players. Either way, comments like those probably don't help his cause.)
- Do we know enough about this year's draft to know whether having the 15th pick is significantly better than having the 18th pick?

As to your points about the other teams in the league, the one question that jumps out at me:
- If the Cavs finish fifth and lose to the Heat in the first round, will the Cavs blow up their roster and start over with a new group around LeBron, or just fire the coach?

Posted by: Henry | April 17, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Question: Why call the 5th seed the 5th seed if the 5th seed has a better record than the 4th seed and gets home-court advantage? Houston is a 5th seed yet earned home-court over Utah, and either Cleveland or Chicago will have home-court over Miami, so both 5th seeds are realistically 4th seeds regardless of whether Utah and Miami are officially crowned as 4th seeds. Does seeding hold sway over the better team record on all playoff rounds other than the first, thereby necessitating the inconsistent seeding/home-court arrangement in Round 1? Or is it simply the case where a division winner gets a bogus fancy title, like Senior Executive Bartender?

Posted by: Woody Boyd | April 17, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm just glad that the Lakers made the playoffs so that we don't have to worry about the Lakers miraculously getting luck in the lottery and getting Odon or Durant.

Posted by: Joe | April 17, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Actually, it'd be great if Les Lakers get a lottery pick for Oden and then that may free up Andrew Bynum.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 17, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards played so poorly against the Bulls, they are bound to bounce back and play a lot better. Not sure if it is going to be enough, especially if Dwight Howard snares 10 or 11 offensive rebounds tonight.

Posted by: George Templeton | April 17, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Jordan's been saying he hopes Daniels can play some in the last couple of games. personally, I think it'd be better to keep him out and give him more time to heal. No point risking him aggravating the injury, thus dashing the already threadbare hopes of any success in the playoffs.

Posted by: kalorama | April 17, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I have Zero faith in Eddie Jordan's ability to manage the roster that he has left. Look for bizare subsitutions and small-ball in the fourth quarter no matter what.

Posted by: Wizzy | April 17, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"I don't think the Wizards can make it out of the first round"

Might be the last time I get to quote Henry on here this year so I think I'll stop that sentence right where I did if you all don't mind. :)

I don't think I've ever felt so devastated by a team as I have this years Wizards. It's been very hard on me as a fan(and I'm sure you all as well).

Personally speaking I think if EG makes a few roster moves and it looks like the Wiz have a solid team going into next year and they flop like they did the beginning of this year then I think the clock starts ticking on Jordan.

Secondly, the Cavs cap room is screwed. The team they have is one they are going to have UNLESS they trade everyone away but I don't see that happening. Lebron doens't like the coach, I see him gone no matter what happens.

My questions to EG:

Are you going to get a legit center (like possibly trade for Gasol) in town or try and make due with trading Haywood in the offseason and naming Etan starter?

How about getting a real point guard? It can only make the Wiz a better team.

Who are you going to replace Stevenson with in the offseason when he leaves?

I'm just glad they won that one game against Atlanta, I didn't want them to get into the playoffs by default.

They might not win another game the rest of the year. :(

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | April 17, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree on getting Pau Gasol, although his large salary will be hard to digest. Given that, even if EG could get a real point guard, I wonder what's the use? Gilby will always want the ball in his hands and he isn't any good unless he shooting it or shooting it. Steve Blake will be a free agent this offseason, in case anyone cares.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 17, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what we can get back if Wiz do a "sign and trade" deal with Jarvis packaged with Brendan. Deshawn is going to stay for sure. Now, what are we going to do with Mason and Taylor...

Posted by: 14364573 | April 17, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards have nothing to offer the Grizzlies (assuming they aren't trading Arenas or Butler, and maybe not even then) that would make them part with Gasol, even if they're actively shopping him.

Blake has no reason to return to the same team he left because of lack of PT, given that the team and its philosphy have changed little since then. If they were inclined to play Gilbert at SG with a PG next to him, they could have done it with Daniels (who regularly is among league leaders in ATO ratio).

Posted by: kalorama | April 17, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Blahhh, I'd glady trade Gilby for Pau Gasol. He's not untouchable in my mind like it is with yours. Gilby was healthy during the latter 1/3 of the season before he hurt his little knee, and Les Boules were still gawdawful (roughly 9-19 last 28 games). A 20-10 big man (7 ft) w/o drama is worth more than an insecure crybaby ballhog like Gilby. I'm glad the reporters are starting to turn on him as most are starting to get tired of his act. Go CARON!

Duh, Blake would only come here if he was promised to be the PG. If Les BouleS/EG can work some magic, he may be able to clear enough room to sign Ray Allen, who's looking to leave Seattle. Now that's a first class, no nonsense dude.

I'd trade Gilby, AJ, and BTH for Ray Allen and a signed Rashard Lewis. Then I'd bring Blake in.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 17, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, given the injuries, the Wiz will lose in the first round, regardless of opponent.

However, even before the injuries, there were serious questions regarding this team concerning their coach's leadership/management skills, and their center play.

Now it seems pretty clear that EJ stays and BH goes. Hopefully, EJ will get some training and EG can get a decent center.

For the remainder of the season and the playoff series, the only real issue is the room for improvement of the current roster, if any. The only place I can see the potential for improvement is with Blatche. Therefore, he ought to be getting 40 minutes a game to see what he can bring and to help develop him.

Seeing what Blatche has is important to know for what is needed in the off-season. In particular, he should be used at the 3, 4 and 5 positions this year.

Posted by: Izman | April 17, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

"I'd glady trade Gilby for Pau Gasol. He's not untouchable in my mind like it is with yours."

So you read minds now? Hopefully better than stat sheets.

What i think of Gilbert is beside the point. I'm 100% certain, however, that Ernie Grunfeld has absolutely zero intention of trading him, which is all that matters. And even if he did, it would take more than Gilbert to get the Grizzlies to give up Gasol.

"I'd trade Gilby, AJ, and BTH for Ray Allen and a signed Rashard Lewis. Then I'd bring Blake in."

Because Allan and Lewis worked such magic in Seattle?

Posted by: kalorama | April 17, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about tonight - the season ended about 10 days ago...yawn...

Posted by: Goofus | April 17, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Of course he reads minds, that's how DCMan knows that Gilbert is a selfish and insecure player who wanted Blake and Dixon out of here because they were cheered more than him.

Posted by: George Templeton | April 17, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

It would be a blessing in disguise if EG can get rid of that nutcase Gilby before he goes off on the deep end. For the betterment of the team and the franchise, this has to happen.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 17, 2007 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Dear George,

Thanks for being my No. 1 fan. What would I do without you? So sorry you miss me. But what can I tell you, Georgie? You must realize, I'm a super star with an image to maintain. We can chat on my blog or See you next year for 2008 playoffs. "O"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 2:08 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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