Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics (8pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
The Miami Heat overcame Dwyane Wade’s 19-minute scoring drought at the start of the game to defeat the Detroit Pistons Tuesday, thereby putting themselves in position to lock up the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Miami’s Joe Johnson was the man on Tuesday, scoring 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, most crucially hitting a pair of long 3’s in a 22-second span midway through the fourth quarter to put the Heat ahead by 7, sending them on their way to a 99-93 win. At 48-33, the Heat are tied with Atlanta, and a win tonight would secure the Southeast and the 3 seed, as the Heat have the tiebreaker advantage over the Hawks, having bested them in 3 of 4 games this season.
The Celtics got torched Monday by the Charlotte Hornets, 114-100, in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. The C’s led by 4 after one quarter, but the Hornets went nuts in the second, outscoring Boston 39-13, as Jeremy Lin dropped 19 of his 25 points, sending Charlotte into the locker room at halftime with a 22-point lead. How ugly was the second quarter for Boston? They made 3 of 22 field goal attempts and committed 6 turnovers. More painfully still, just a few days after looking like they’d be the 3-seed in the East, the Celtics head into their final game of the season at 47-34, tied with Charlotte in 5th place.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors (10:30pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
The Memphis Grizzlies lost again last night, falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 110-84. The Clips went up 18 at the half and it was all over but the crying, as LA hit 55% from the floor, including 48% from downtown, won the battle of the boards, dished out 29 assists, had 11 steals, and just 9 turnovers – they essentially did everything better. The loss was Memphis’ third in a row and ninth in their last 10 games, dropping them to 42-39. It sure will be nice when Marc Gasol and Mike Conley get back next season, but in the meantime Zach Randolph and the gang will have to do what they can to make a little hay.
The Golden State Warriors are 72-9, teetering on the brink of immortality, as they head into their 82nd and final game with a chance to set the single-season record for wins in an NBA season. Last week the Warriors lost two games in the span of four days, putting their chances for 73 in serious peril, as they still had two dates with the ever-formidable Spurs on the calendar. But they answered the call both times, most recently escaping with a 92-86 victory in which Steph Curry scored 37 points. The Warriors are already the 1 seed in the West, Curry has to be the presumptive MVP, and has already shattered his own single-season record for 3-pointers… 73 is all that’s left. Well, that and staying healthy for the playoffs.
Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers (10:30pm ET Wednesday, ESPN2)
It’s gotta be a rare thing to be outscored in every quarter and only lose by 9, but the Jazz did it on Monday, falling to the Dallas Mavericks, who bested them by 2, 2, 3, and 2 points over the four quarters. Dallas’ Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, and Dirk Nowitzki each scored at least 20 for the Mavs, while the Jazz’s Gordon Hayward led all scorers with 26, despite hitting on just 1 of 9 from downtown. The Jazz head into their season finale at 40-41, tied with Houston for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, though the Rockets would win the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record by dint of having the better conference record.
But who cares about the Jazz? This one’s all about Kobe. After 20 seasons, 5 NBA championships, 18 All-Star teams, 2 scoring titles, an MVP award, and top 10 all-time rankings in field goals, free throws, and points (and turnovers and field goals missed), Kobe Bryant is calling it quits. You’d be hard pressed to think of a professional athlete who played at such a high level for so long only to have his career end in such an ugly, drawn-out fashion – suffering a season-ending injury three years in a row, only to make it back for a season in which the Lakers set a franchise record for losses (for the third year in a row), and he was, according to Basketball Reference’s Win Shares, the second-worst player in the league. But none of that changes the fact that he was one of the best.