Category Archives: 15 Footer

15 Footer, 5/30/13: Let Them Play

If you’re here looking for complaints about the officials, congratulations! You fell for my illusion. TO THE AZTEC TOMB!

Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat (8:30 PM, TNT)

The Pacers and Heat are playing one of the most evenly matched, competitive series of the postseason, and I’m not entirely sure it’s been noticed. While these two teams scheme, adjust and execute their way to offensive production unexpected against such stellar defenses, the focus since Game 1′s postgame strategy gab session lies elsewhere. Between poor officiating and plenty of flopping, there’s been every excuse to talk about everything but the game. If you’re upset about the way things have gone so far, I don’t blame you. No one likes to see a free throw contest. No one likes to see a 50/50 call called improperly. No one wants to think they’re being deprived of a better product.

I urge you, however, to consider a different perspective. You have every ability to choose what things are important to you. On any given play between the Heat and Pacers, one might see a half-dozen feats of athletic marvel and mental processing rivaled by few, if any, competitors. Choose to celebrate those moments and let the bad calls and flailing bodies roll off your back, not the other way around.

Yes, there will be bad calls and felonious flops. The act of two evenly matched teams playing at such an elite level, vying for every inch of real estate and every window of opportunity, practically begs for missed whistles and gale force near-elbows. Every advantage must be seized — or created. Any edge must be exploited — or maintained. If there’s a way to conquer one more neuron’s worth of sympathy in the minds of the officials, then damn the means and justify the end. It is the job of the referees to suss out what’s real and what’s not, and sometimes they’re going to blow it. They’re human. It’s not right; it’s inevitable. It’s reality.

The rest of reality is the splendor that awaits us tonight. With so much on the line, each play will make your heart race and your blood boil, let alone what it will do to the teams. Bad calls and unfairly rewarded flops will happen. Question them. Analyze them. Learn from them. Make jokes about them. Laugh about them. But let them live in the moment and wither as the ball changes hands. Trust that things will even out in the end (and no, I don’t mean root for a makeup call). Appreciate the game as it happens, rather than dwelling. You can’t control the way the whistles will go, but you can control whether they affect you. Just like David West and Dwyane Wade!

Image by ctsnow via Flickr

15 FOOTER, 5/27/13: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP

Arrested Development has just hit televisions all across America, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the #1 pick in the NBA Draft after winning the Lottery, and the San Antonio Spurs are one game away from the NBA Finals. Is that a sentence from 2003 or an entire decade later? The answer is yes.

Speaking of turning back the clock, Tim Duncan keyed the Spurs Game 3 victory on Saturday night with a vintage 24 points and 10 rebounds in the Spurs 11 point overtime win. I know there is going to come a point and time in the near future where Tim Duncan is not in our lives. I just don’t know if I am fully prepared for it. For the love of Shammgod, to even approach your career averages in your 16th season in the league is an accomplishment in and of itself. For Duncan, his per 36 minute numbers for rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, and fouls are better, albeit slightly, in his 16th season than his career numbers. This is not normal:

DuncanStats

For Memphis, all they have to do is pull off something than 107 teams in the history of the NBA have failed to do: win four straight games after falling behind in a playoff series 3-0. If the Grizzlies can take solace in anything, it’s that in the past eight regulation quarters, they have played the Spurs to a complete and utter draw with each team tallying 171 points. However, overtime has proven to be a Sisyphean task for Memphis. While doing everything in their power to push the boulder up the hill, they cannot seem to nudge it over the top despite being at the precipice. Although it is not impossible for the Grizz to run off four straight games, it certainly seems that the Spurs are headed on a collision course with Miami in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs have proven that they can win games in multiple ways this series. In Game 1, it was jumping out to a 17 point lead after the first quarter and going on, despite a small second half scare, to cruise to a 105-83 victory. In Game 3, the tables were turned as they found themselves down 16 points after one period, and yet they still found a way to win. Tonight, with their backs firmly against the wall, the Grizzlies will keep the game close for 44 minutes before the Spurs pull away and earn their fifth trip to the Finals since 1999.

Prediction: Spurs 102-93

15 Footer, 5/16/13: Elimination Breakdown

For the sake of NBA aficionados everywhere, may at least one of the teams behind in their respective series emerge victorious tonight. A four day stretch without basketball seems a plight unbecoming the current level of play. The landscape is not ready to be barren so soon, to lie fallow for any longer than is necessary. Let the fields be sown with all the niceties of Stephen Curry silver platters and Prigioni peppers. Bring us your finest Tim Duncan aged wines and Tony Parker founts of water droplets pure, the spoils of Roy Hibbert’s hunt for anything airborne, too, NBA playoffs!

But not too much of the latter, because the Warriors and Knicks really need a win tonight.

Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks (8:00 PM, TNT)

What is there to do when you’ve trusted the process and not received any positive results?

By all accounts, the Knicks abandoned much of the stagnant heroball that rendered their first round meeting with the Boston Celtics unpalatable. The fear was the Melo and Felton isolations would continue unabated, forced down our collective gullet like a set piece in the movie Se7en. Instead, the Knicks turned to the pick and roll and fostered a decent amount of ball movement in the halfcourt.

For their efforts, they have a 3-1 series deficit and an elimination game at home. They seem at their wits’ end, forced into unsuccessful gambits such as a big lineup that every Knicks observer in the tri-state area knew was doomed from the start. The Knicks are that kid on Legends of the Hidden Temple who couldn’t figure out how to put together the damned Silver Monkey statue and had you screaming at your television in anticipation of years of sports fanaticism. And the Pacers are that statue. They’re also Olmec, host Kirk Fogg, the Temple guardians and probably the production crew.

They’ve played the Knicks to near perfection, accepting the rolling evolution from New York and refusing any progress from the primordial ooze made by the stack of amino acids that is Mike Woodson. Both Paul George and Roy Hibbert now find themselves at least in the conversation of NBA stars, and Lance Stephenson certainly seems born ready for the role of Indiana’s more productive version of J.R. Smith.

The Knicks aren’t to be counted out — not yet, and not at home. They’ll try everything they can to move on to the next chamber in their journey, but a half a medallion and 36 points from Carmelo Anthony might not save them.

San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors (10:30 PM, ESPN)

The Spurs are on the flipside of the process/results coin. They trusted that their process, with enough small modifications to adjust for the opponent, would win out over the long run — that if they could weather the Golden State storm long enough to not be eliminated in a variance-induced tsunami, the Warriors would cool off and enough of San Antonio’s own shots would finally find their way in the basket.

In essence, the Spurs are Danny Green. Green has ample opportunities for open 3s and drives to the rim after closeouts in this series, yet he’s been his typical IcyHot self on most nights. When he and the other floor spacers for San Antonio knock down shots, the Warriors struggle to keep up, often resulting in forced shots on the other end by Jarrett Jack, who somehow continues to make them and earn a payday that stands to infuriate whatever future fanbase has the pleasure of his presence. When Green takes those same shots with the same amount of space and misses, though, Golden State more readily works for decent looks at the other end, especially as the long Green misses often lead to runouts on the other end by the Warriors and easy transition opportunities at the rim and behind the 3-point line.

That variance is more or less out of the Spurs’ hands, especially with the choices the Warriors make on defense. What San Antonio can control is how they matchup on the other end. Coach Gregg Popovich made the tactical decision to switch Kawhi Leonard onto Klay Thompson, giving Green free reign to harass Stephen Curry. San Antonio has conceded looks to Harrison Barnes, guarded by Tony Parker, in so doing, but Green is more than up for the task of limiting Curry. He’s been particularly adept at fighting through off-ball actions designed to free Curry and get him the ball in space and while in motion. As with so many other elite offensive players, much of defense on Curry is prevention of the catch where and when he most prefers.

Yet for all the regression and adaptation, the Warriors have played the Spurs to a near deadlock. San Antonio leads the series 3-2, but with the home crowd rocking at Roaracle tonight, there’s every chance Golden State will give us a Game 7.

15 Footer, 5/14/13: The Knicks Are That Restaurant Everyone Hates But Won’t Stop Patronizing

Day 25 of the NBA Playoffs is upon us. Or Day 24, if you don’t include the one off day we had so far. I prefer to go by the calendar, though, semantics aside.

And Day 25 makes me think it’s Playoff Christmas. To the presents!

New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers (7:00 PM, TNT)

According to the general manager of the restaurant, everything Chez Woodson is excellent. All the chefs, sous-chefs and line workers are on the same page, even if the “baby-faced” dishwasher looks suspiciously like one of the oldest guys in the kitchen. There is no discord in the back of the house.

Which makes the disarray at the front of the house all the more strange. Sure, the Pacers aren’t the most polite guests. They’re more likely to overturn the tables and use them to set screens on the waiters than they are to wait in line patiently for the food to be brought to them. And Shammgod help you if two bussers form what even remotely resembles a double team in the eyes of Paul George; they will be split with indiscriminate fury and a taste for Bananas Foster. For all the chaos created by the customers, though, the Knicks do themselves no favors when their offense devolves into an incessant smorgasbord of isolation and frustration. This franchise should thrive on efficiency and movement, the ability to satisfy large swaths of the clientele with spectacular flambé and an occasional off-the-rack dash of J.R. Smith.

Instead, three customers sit at the lone remaining upright table. They meticulously pore over the menu, often oblivious to the pandemonium that surrounds them. One wants filet mignon. The second eyes the dessert section. And the last simply wonders why the restaurant isn’t a club.Yet there’s only the one menu; they have to share it, begrudgingly as they might. And in those moments of clarity, when their hands are free and their eyes wander, they see the 7-foot chef screaming for them to put on their work uniforms and help put out the fire in the kitchen. All the while, that same chef burns the entrée as he tries to fight off an 86-inch tall intruder who barged in through the back door and flexed his culinary supremacy.

The restaurant isn’t lost yet, but the people outside have noticed the smoke billowing from the back. Oh, and their favorite waiter? His leg is falling off.

It might be time to double check the insurance on the place. You know, just to be safe.

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs (9:30 PM, TNT)

Speaking of limb limitations, the Golden State Warriors are back in action! Somehow, with David Lee’s hip technically its own person right now and Stephen Curry’s ankle decision to call in sick and leave a papier-mâché replica in its place, the Warriors are tied 2-2 with the Spurs. They might even be the favorites to win the series, or at least even money. The huge swings and wild variance of this series dissuade me from predictions or even trying to view the game through any one prism before it starts; this series deserves more than that. It’s best enjoyed in the moment, lived from possession to possession, Kawhi Leonard corner 3 to Jarrett jack pull up jumper from the free throw line.

With that said, I would like to go on the record at this time with an official declaration of how horribly wrong I was about coach Mark Jackson. I thought his hire was peculiar at best, but he’s done a fantastic job, in my eyes. There’s so much about coaching that we don’t see, of course, so it’s always difficult to infer process from results. But Jackson’s players certainly seem to buy into what he’s selling on the bench; hell, I do through the uncanny valley of my television. His trust in his players this postseason, manifested in his willingness to stick with players in foul trouble, is commendable. Too often coaches effectively foul out their own players by sending them to the bench. It backfired on some level in Game 4, but I trust the process, and it’s paid dividends so far.

Well done, coach Jackson. And on the behalf of the basketball viewing public, thank you for unleashing the Splash Bros.

15 FOOTER, 5/2/13: Four Teams Enter, Everyone On The Bulls Gets Injured

Day 13 of the NBA Playoffs: FOUR TEAMS ENTER.

AS MANY AS FOUR TEAMS REMAIN STANDING AFTERWARD, BUT POSSIBLY ONLY TWO. Or one, depending on your take on the current state of the Chicago Bulls.

Let the battle for supremacy (or stayed eliminations) begin.

38% of the Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets (8:00 PM, TNT)

Derrick Rose is officially ruled out, meaning the day-to-day ends today but resumes the next day, which is tomorrow, when Derrick Rose will be day-to-day, unlike today. Got it?

Captain Kirk Hinrich is “likely out,” as he’s suffering from a bruised left calf. Taj Gibson and Luol Deng are both ill and remain gametime decisions. According to my sources who have literally never been right, the frontcourt pairing is still reeling after sharing the same contaminated drinking fountain in a public park during their off day, where they were forced to consistently “ice” a local Brooklyn 8-and-up Boys and Girls Club team’s attempts at side pick and roll by a now completely voiceless Tom Thibodeau. Sources indicate Thibs communicated in a frantic flurry of white boards, Sri Lankan miming and approximately 36 consecutive minutes of refusing to breathe.

At this point, the Bulls are less a basketball team and more an interpretive dance explaining the finer points of the latter half of a Royal Rumble. Everyone is bruised, battered and ready to be deep-fried. Jobbers and superstars alike have been tossed over the top rope. Nate Robinson thinks whomever jumps off the top of the turnbuckle the most times without helping to eliminate anyone wins. Yet in the middle of the chaos, playing on one foot like some sort of post-surgery Sid Vicious, stands Joakim Noah. So long as he protects the paint from marauding Brook Lopezes, the Bulls stand a chance. Noah can likely fight Lopez to a draw. If Brooklyn is to take out the big man and his Jimmy Butler-sized friends, they’ll need all the “average” sized guys to swarm and topple the Giant.

Rogue Soviet agents masquerading as Denver Nuggets vs. The Unassailable Golden State Warriors (10:30 PM, TNT)

Completely fictional account of Mark Jackson’s morning routine when looking in the mirror. Again, this is COMPLETELY FICTIONAL DON’T GET MAD AT ME MARK DOESN’T REALLY DO THIS.

“Mama, there goes that toothpaste.”

He really can’t help himself; though it’s uncouth to laugh at one’s own pleasantries, Mark Jackson always shakes his head and laughs after his morning brushing. As he rinses the lateral lines of enamel protection from his sink basin, though, the smile fades. It’s business time. It’s Mirror Speech time.

“Listen, Mark. There’s only one opportunity to have a first impression on the second try, and you, my friend, have a long line of Jacksonian dignity to uphold.”

“Samuel L. Both Reggies, old and new, bless the Thunder. Old Hickory. All of the musical ones, NOT JUST TITO. These are the people for whom you go to work everyday and do the best job that you can. This isn’t about Mark — this is about standing up for team Jackson, those people you put that birth certificate on your dashboard for everyday of your life.”

“But today is a different day. You are not LaToya, not today, no sir! You are a leader of men. You are Phil Jackson, King of the Rings. Nigh is the time for declarations of shenanigans and media manipulations. Like Phil, you most foster the seeds of discontent among your opponent. Sow discord, and you will reap victory.”

“The facts do not matter; when you have the best shooting backcourt in recorded history, there must be a larger issue. Tell them that the Nuggets are dirty. Tell them that Kenneth Faried intended to destroy the purity of basketball, fragile as it is bound up in Curry’s ankle like the galaxy on Orion’s belt. Love that movie. Wish I had me a neuralyzer. Some of those cool gadgets where they could listen in on people, too. And man, I’d never push that red button.”

“…wait. Cool spy gadgets. Spies. Flies on the wall. Eagles fly. Andre Iguodala sounds like ‘Eagle Dollar.’ Dollars are used for bribes. THAT’S IT.”

With a resounding crash, the mirror shatters. Reality is broken; we are through the reflection, and perception is us.

“I’ll tell them I have inside information. IT’S EXACTLY WHAT PHIL WOULD DO. It’s brilliant, like that job in Inside Man. That’s another good movie. Bet they wish the police had the 411 in that movie like I do. Damned dirty Nuggets.”

15-Footer, 4/30/13: HAIKUS FOR TUES(day)

Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets 8 PM TNT

Steph Curry Stephen

Curry Steph Curry Stephen

Curry Steph Curry

 

He is en fuego

Karl sticks Miller

On him. Big mistake

 

Denver returns home

Down three games to one. Will Dubs

Deliver knockout?

 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers 10:30 PM TNT

 

Marc Gasol getting

More aggressive on offense

Is good for Memphis

 

CP3 being

The Point God is good for Clips

And for us at home

 

What’s not good for us?

Blake Griffin’s incessant need to dribble between the legs then pull up for a mid-range jumper that will inevitably clang off the rim. YOU’RE SHOOTING 33% from MID-RANGE AND 51% AT THE RIM. GO STRONG TO THE HOLE BLAKE.

I broke haiku rules.

 

Statistic support

For story provided by

NBA.com

15 FOOTER, 4/29/13: Losing is not an option

Before we get to previewing tonight’s games, you really need to take a few minutes and read the incredible, powerful Sports Illustrated piece on Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay player in any of the “Big Four” men’s professional sports leagues. Today was undoubtedly a watershed moment in sports, and I would be remiss in my duty to cover the latest news going on in the NBA without linking to the article at hand. Now, on to the games tonight…

Chicago at Brooklyn (7:00 PM, TNT)

Interesting decision by the NBA as this will be the first ever day-night doubleheader in NBA history as these teams are expected to finish up Game 4 around 6:30 PM and then go right into Game 5 at 8:00 P…oh wait, I’m now being told that Saturday’s marathon actually did finish with the Bulls riding Nate Robinson to a stunning 142-134 3OT victory. It is a good thing that the Bulls were able to prevail in Game 4 because any time you have people comparing Nate Robinson’s performance to the infamous Sleepy Floyd Game in the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals, you pretty much cannot afford to waste that performance. We almost did not get to see most of the greatness, however. A blown dunk by C.J. Watson that would have put Brooklyn up 16 to play with 3:16 left in the game could have provided the dagger for Brooklyn and rendered Robinson’s performance irrelevant, but like the 3:16 verse in the Book of John states, instead it gave the Bulls everlasting life in a game that seemingly took forever. As we head into Game 5, the stakes are simple. For the Nets, it’s win or go home. For the Bulls, it’s win and head to Miami. I still think Brooklyn has one last gasp in them though.

Prediction: Brooklyn 96-91

Indiana at Atlanta (7:30 PM, NBA TV)

Surely the Law of Averages dictates that at least one of the games in this series will be relatively close, right? After the Pacers crushed the Hawks by 17 and 15 points in the confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the momentum shifted when the series headed back to Atlanta where Indiana only mustered a Celtics-esque 69 points in 21 point loss to the Hawks. George Hill and Lance Stephenson have to quickly block out and forget about whatever they were doing on Saturday night as they combined to go 2-15 from the field. Meanwhile, Al Horford was in Beast Mode as he busted out with a tidy little 26-16 performance. This is as close to a must win game as the Hawks could possibly face because there is no way they are taking three straight from Indiana if they lose tonight. Unfortunately for them, I see Hill and Stephenson’s performances as more of an aberration than a harbinger of things to come. Plus, I picked Indiana to win this series in five games, and I’m sticking by that.

Prediction: Indiana 98-88

Oklahoma City at Houston (9:30 PM, TNT)

As a basketball community, it is no secret that we are frequently driven by narratives. Whether it’s Tracy McGrady’s inability to get out of the first round, the Lakers problems that began in training camp and lasted through the end of the season, or a myriad of other talking points, we love looking at the same story through the context of different lenses and making it our own. Of course, one of the most popular narratives that we see over and over again is whether or not a team is secretly better without its best player in the lineup. Call it the Ewing Theory if you want, but just this year, we’ve seen it rear its head with Derrick Rose and the Bulls, Rajon Rondo and the Celtics, and now Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Let’s stop this right now; no, the Thunder, despite getting 41 points from Kevin Durant in Game 3, are not better off without Russell Westbrook. No, Westbrook was not holding Durant back in any way, shape, or form. Instead, what we saw in Game 3 was Durant putting a team that needed him on his shoulders and leading them to victory, even if he needed a little luck along the way. I mean, seriously, he broke eight laws of physics on this shot alone:

GIF via SBNation

So no, it’s not that Westbrook was getting in the way of KD; it’s just that the Durantula is really freaking good. And a majority of the time, the team with the best player on the floor wins the series. Houston, you have a problem, and his name is Kevin Durant.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 103-99

15 FOOTER, 4/22/2013: The Most Deranged Playoff Preview You Will Ever Read

If you just opened this like I or someone else told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this 15 Footer is going to be a fun f’ing ride.

For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks, there was an epically fantastic e-mail sent out by a Delta Gamma sorority sister at the University of Maryland last week which has made its way around the interwebs at warp speed. It really is an e-mail we have all dreamed of writing at one time or another, so I tip my cap to her for actually having the guts to actually follow through on this. Inspired by her performance, let’s take a look at the playoff games on tap tonight.

Chicago at Brooklyn (8:00 PM, TNT)

First of all, Brooklyn, you SHOULDN’T be chanting BROOOOK-LYYYYYYYN at random times. I don’t give a crap if your boyfriend is chanting it, if your brother is chanting it, or if your entire family is chanting it. YOU DON’T CHANT IT RANDOMLY. And you ESPECIALLY do f’ing NOT convince others in your section to chant it with you at inopportune times. Kudos to the Nets crowd for getting it right by busting it out when up huge in a playoff game. On the court and away from the blackout in the Barclays crowd that would make CISPA opposers proud, Deron Williams looked fantastic in Game 1 providing 22 points and dishing out seven assists. He looks like he does not give an F, and he WILL f’ing assault Chicago in this series if this keeps up.

Newsflash: Teams that give up 80% shooting in a quarter generally don’t win playoff games. Chicago allowed Brooklyn to shoot 16-20 from the field during the second quarter in building a 25 point lead heading to halftime leading people to ask, “Are the Bulls going to reach 80 points?” That wasn’t a rhetorical question. People literally wanted to know if the Bulls would crack the 80 point barrier. They eventually hit the 80 point mark with 3:17 to go in the game. Oh wait, DOUBLE F’ING NEWSFLASH: Running your starters into the ground during the year may cause those players’ bodies to break down when it matter most. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah both finished in the top 15 in minutes per game this season, and Noah was noticeably hurting during his 13 gritty minutes on Saturday. He is expected to play through his plantar fasciitis tonight, but his impact is expected to be limited.

Prediction: If you’re a Bulls fan living in New York during the day, this following message is for you: DO NOT GO TO TONIGHT’S GAME. It’s not going to be pretty. Nets 101-92.

Memphis at LA Clippers (10:30 PM, TNT)

I do not give a flying crap, and the Clippers do not give a flying crap, about how much the Grizzlies rebounded this year. They had 82 games out of the f’ing year to rebound, and this week is apparently NOT, I repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. Memphis as a team pulled down 23 rebounds in Game 1 with 7’1″ Marc Gasol pulling down 2 and Zach Randolph, who averaged 11.2 rebounds per game this year, recording 4 boards. This week is about winning games in the basketball community, and that’s not f’ing possible if the Grizzlies are going to stand around and talk to each other and not focus on their matchup.

Chris Paul is the type of person that can cause people to send texts to others and get them cheering for the opposing team. The opposing. F’ing. Team. Personally, I cheer for my own team, and I don’t give a crap about sportsmanship, but CP3 is so much fun to watch. He was a point guard savant on Saturday in carving up the Memphis defense to the tune of 23 points and 7 assists while seamlessly shifting from facilitator to scorer and back again. To those that think that there is any sort of debate as to who the best point guard in the league is, I have to ask, HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN TO A SPORTS GAME? ARE YOU F’ING BLIND?

Prediction: Clippers 115-102. And for those of you who are offended at this pick, I would apologize but I really don’t give a crap. Just kidding, you guys are great. Enjoy the games!

15 FOOTER, 4/16/2013: HAIKUS FOR TWO (games)

Toronto Raptors vs. Atlanta Hawks. 8:00 PM ET. TNT.

If Atlanta wins
At home, does anyone see?
Attendance joke. Laugh.

Josh Smith wants the max
Hawks probably won’t give it
Unless, maybe, Dwight?

If Hawks win tonight
Closer to locking 5 seed
Hawks play Nets. We sleep.

Raptors have Rudy
Want to give him more money
No, Colangelo.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers. 10:30 PM ET. TNT.

The Blazers are hurt
Clips control own destiny
In quest for home court

Dame: Rookie of year
Crawford: likely not Sixth Man
CP3: Point God

Meyers Leonard runs
Like a gazelle or some shit
It’s just so pretty.

15 Footer, 2/25/2013: Playoff Implications (Or Not)

Photo via Heiko Brinkmann on Flickr.

Photo via Heiko Brinkmann on Flickr.

As February draws to a close, we’re getting to the point in the season where every game that isn’t in the Bobcats-Suns tier has playoff implications. Teams are on the edges of the race for the eighth seed, attempting to hold home-court advantage, and praying they can play their way out of an unfavorable first-round matchup. With one exception, today’s games all have at least some bearing on the playoff pictures in each conference.

Wizards at Raptors (7:00pm ET)

Two teams that might be on the periphery of the playoff picture if they hadn’t started the season so terribly. The Wizards pulled out an upset over the Rockets on Saturday, and the Raptors ain’t the Rockets. Toronto has been playing well lately, though. Rudy Gay has proven himself to be a legitimate late-game option, and Kyle Lowry is back to some semblance of his early-season play now that Jose Calderon isn’t starting ahead of him. KLOE and John Wall is a very Twitter matchup, and Bradley Beal has had more freedom since the Wizards traded Jordan Crawford. We might be talking about this game as a playoff preview in a few years. For now, it’s at least going to be entertaining.

Hawks at Pistons (7:30pm ET)

Quick tangent: This morning, it was reported that Andre Drummond could be on track to return as soon as a week from now, after suffering a stress fracture in his lower back. The Pistons are currently six games out of the eighth seed in the playoffs. A team in the Western Conference that’s also on the outside looking in at the playoff picture at the moment also has an enormously talented center who came back early from back surgery. It hasn’t gone great for them. Detroit isn’t making the playoffs, and they own their own draft pick this June. Wouldn’t it make more sense to hold Drummond out the rest of the year, let him take his time to recover, and make sure that the potential franchise cornerstone of a team with a suddenly promising future doesn’t hurt his long-term health most of the way through his rookie season? Meh. With Brandon Knight hurt and Will Bynum suspended, the Pistons will be shorthanded. There will be a lot of Rodney Stuckey and a lot of Charlie Villanueva. The Hawks are trying to solidify a playoff spot and claw their way up to home-court advantage. Do the math.

Lakers at Nuggets (9:00pm ET)

The Nuggets already used their amnesty on Chris Andersen. The Lakers have not used their amnesty on anybody. Has anyone suggested lately, particularly the owner of another Western Conference playoff hopeful, that LA should use it on Kobe? It’s something I haven’t heard about, if it’s even happened at all. Anyway, this is a must-win for the Lakers. Every game going forward will be a must-win, so that’s not saying a lot, but the Nuggets are pretty firmly entrenched in a playoff spot, so a win against them would be a huge confidence boost for LA. Andre Iguodala guarding Kobe should be riveting. Plus, Dwight and JaVale. Even Jared Dubin can’t say argue that Pierre is the more annoying of the two centers.

Celtics at Jazz (9:00pm ET)

Two teams trying to stay afloat in the playoff pictures in their respective conferences. The Celtics’ offense looked pretty rough last night against the Blazers, and they’re on the second end of a road back-to-back. They’ve won a lot of games since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, but nobody really thinks that hot streak is sustainable in any way. The Jordan Crawford Celtics Experience has been fun so far, though, especially now that Terrence Williams is in the mix on a 10-day contract. It’s the Marbury/Francis of backup wings. Post-Rondo, the only real reason to watch the Celtics is to hope that it turns into a blowout and Fab Melo gets some garbage minutes. As for the Jazz, they got blown out by the Clippers on Saturday and cling to a two-game lead in the loss column over the Rockets for the seventh seed. The Lakers are gaining on both of them. It won’t be pretty basketball, but it’s one of those games we’re obligated to watch because of the playoff implications.