NBA Games of the Week March 26th through April 1st
Monday March 26th
Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers (7PM EST)
This is the second and final game of the season series between these two teams. Philadelphia won the first game at the end of December by 5 points in Denver.
The Nuggets are currently in the 9th spot out west and they are going to have to put together some wins if they hope to get into the playoffs. Unfortunately, their final 9 games are against teams in the playoff picture. Surprisingly, it might be a blessing for Denver that they do not play any losing teams because losses to the Mavericks, Lakers, and Grizzlies in the month of March could be what costs Denver a playoff spot. The Nuggets are only one game behind the Jazz for the 8th spot and a game and a half behind the Timberwolves in the 7th spot. This game is important.
Philadelphia has taken advantage of their schedule and have won six in a row, their latest a 12 point win against the Timberwolves. Of their final 10 games of the season only three are against teams with winning records including these Denver Nuggets. The 76ers are currently in the 4th spot and I cannot see a scenario where they fall below the four spot. They are only a game behind Cleveland for the 3rd seed and hold a half game lead over the Pacers. Clinching home court in the 1st round could be huge for this team and I am not sure how many teams in the East want to see Philadelphia right now.
Tuesday March 27th
Indiana Pacers at Golden State Warriors (10:30PM EST)
This is the 1st game of the two game season series between these two teams. Their second game will take place in Indiana on Thursday, April 5th.
The Pacers are tied for the second hardest schedule remaining in the league and that could be disastrous for their hopes of getting home court through the first round of the playoffs. Fortunately, they are going to play a Warriors team that is limping into the playoffs with multiple injuries. The most recent being the injury to Stephen Curry that will keep him out of action for what could be the remainder of the regular season. The Pacers are just a half game out of the 4th spot in the East, but they are starting a brutal stretch of schedule. After their game in Miami on Sunday, they will head out of the road for a four game west coast trip before coming back home for another game with the Warriors. Winning this game could be huge for a Pacers team that desperately wants home court in the first round.
The Warriors seem to be snake bitten in some ways this season. All of their best players have missed good stretches of time with injuries and they cannot seem to get healthy. They are pretty much locked into the second seed in the West and could go into a first round match-up missing one of their big four. While this game means a great deal to the Pacers, I am sure the Warriors just want to get healthy in time for the playoffs.
Wednesday March 28th
Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz (9:30PM EST)
This is the second and final game of the season series between these two teams. The Utah Jazz won the first game by 12 points in Boston in the middle of December.
The Celtics are more than likely going to be the number two team in the East heading into the playoffs, but they have continued to fight for wins and have gotten some big ones against the Thunder and Trail Blazers despite being decimated by injuries. They are without Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart, but Jaylen Brown is on his way back. Hopefully, the Celtics can get healthy in time for the playoffs.
The Jazz have lost two of their last three heading into a Sunday showdown with the Warriors. They are now in the 8th seed and are half a game back of the 7th seed Timberwolves. Utah was bound to cool off somewhat after their incredible stretch of basketball. The Jazz need to win this game to keep pace and if they can avoid the Rockets in the 1st round that would be a great thing for them.
Thursday March 29th
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs (8PM EST)
This is the fourth and final game of the season series between these two teams. The Spurs won their first meeting in San Antonio by 3 points, but lost the second and third games in Oklahoma City by 3 points and 10 points, respectively.
The Thunder have played great basketball of late, but that loss to the Celtics on Tuesday hurts. They have won 7 of 8 and have put themselves in a good position heading into their stretch run. Holding the head to head advantage over the Spurs could be huge and getting a win here would lock that up for the Thunder. The Thunder would love to catch up to the Trail Blazers for the 3rd seed. Being able to avoid Houston in the 2nd round would be huge for a Thunder team that feels they can beat the Warriors.
The Spurs have come back from the dead and are on a six game winning streak that could not have come at a better time. However, the news coming out of San Antonio concerning Kawhi Leonard and players only meetings is not good and does not bode well for the Spurs moving forward. The Spurs would love to get this game and move that much closer to continuing their 50 win streak.
Friday March 30th
New Orleans Pelicans at Cleveland Cavaliers (8PM EST)
This is the second and final game of the season series between these two teams. The Pelicans won the first game in New Orleans by 22 points.
The Pelicans have been consistent and have gone 5-5 over their last 10 games. They have at times looked great and to their credit, they have been able to win games against inferior teams. However, their Saturday beat down at the hands of the Rockets should give them reason to understand that their ceiling is only so high without Cousins.
Cleveland has been good of late and LeBron James continues to be superhuman. The Cavaliers have to be a confident team right now coming off of a big win over the Raptors heading into a week of winnable games. The Cavaliers would love to hold onto the 3rd seed and avoid the Raptors until the Conference Finals if they can. Winning this game would help them stay ahead of the 76ers, who are only a game back for the third seed.
Saturday March 31st
Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics (7:30PM EST)
This is the third game of the four game season series between these two teams. The Celtics won the first game in Boston by one point, but lost in Toronto by 20 points in their second meeting. These two teams will play their final game of the season series on April 4th in Toronto.
The Raptors will face the Celtics in this game followed by another game with the Cavaliers and then playing the Celtics again. Given the Raptors' playoff struggles, I think these games are vitally important for their mental state heading into the postseason. Losing to the Celtics and Cavaliers could show the Raptors that they are still a regular season team that is not ready to compete for titles. The Raptors will be the number one seed in the East and they have played great all season. These games can help them get confident that they are going to be the team representing the East in the Finals.
The Celtics will not catch the Raptors in the standings, but the Celtics would love to get a win over a team they could see in the Conference Finals.
Sunday April 1st
Utah Jazz at Minnesota Timberwolves (7PM EST)
This is the fourth and final game of the season series between these two teams. Minnesota won the first two games in Minnesota and Utah by 3 points and 11 points, respectively. Utah won the most recent match-up in Minnesota by 8 points.
The Jazz are only half a game back of the Timberwolves and by the time this game is played this could be a game that keeps Minnesota in the playoffs or pushes them out. The Timberwolves are 6-6 since Jimmy Butler went down and playing .500 might not be good enough to keep them in the playoffs. Leading up to this game, the Timberwolves play the Grizzlies, Hawks, and Mavericks. They have to win all three of those games if they hope to make the playoffs. Losing one or two of those games would be disastrous. Utah also needs this game to have a chance at taking the head to head advantage over the Timberwolves. It could mean the difference between the 7th or 8th seed.