Houston, we have a Play-In push. Plus, is seeding or health more important for postseason?


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If the playoffs started today, we’d be confused as to why the NBA didn’t play out the entire season.


About the Roaring Rockets

Will the f****** Rockets ruin Play-In matchups?

So many of us have been drooling over a potential Play-In Tournament scenario in which the Mavs and the Suns face off with all of their star power in the No. 7-8 matchup. And then? We’d have the Lakers and Warriors playing a do-or-die No. 9-10 showdown. And once Alperen Şengün had that scary leg injury, it felt like nobody in the West had a chance to disrupt that – except, nobody told the Rockets.

Houston (34-35) has won seven straight games – with five of those coming after the Şengün injury. Overall, the Rockets have won nine of 10 games and are now pushing to disrupt those West Play-In scenarios (so are the Mavs, who are in the top six for now). They beat the Bulls 127-113 last night to move within 2.5 games of the 36-32 Warriors at No. 10 and three games of the 37-32 Lakers at ninth. As of now, the Rockets don’t have the tiebreaker over the Warriors but could have one over the Lakers.

Jalen Green (22 years old) has been on fire in this stretch, scoring 26.5 points per game on 49.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from deep. In this five-game win streak without Şengün, rookie Amen Thompson has scored 16.8 points on a ridiculous 73.9 percent shooting from the field. The Rockets need a lot of help to overcome the Warriors and/or Lakers, but this late push to screw up everybody’s dream Play-In has been pretty fun.

More from last night: 

Nuggets 113, Knicks 100: This is what you need to know from this game.

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Magic 121, Pelicans 106: Paolo Banchero had a 21-10-11 triple-double as Orlando’s defense forced 18 turnovers (eight from Zion) to shut down the Pelicans (42-27, fifth in West). It was a battle of my two favorite team stories this year. The Magic (42-28) are 1.5 games behind third-place Cleveland.

Wizards 109, Kings 102: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! A game-high 31 points for Kyle Kuzma. The Kings (40-29, eighth in West) shot only 18 percent on 3s! Shame! Shame!

Bucks 115, Nets 108: Giannis was back, Damian Lillard was on fire, and the Bucks (45-25) are 1.5 games ahead of Cleveland for No. 2 in the East.

Mavs 113, Jazz 97: Luka Dončić had 34 and the Mavs (41-29, sixth in West) cruised to victory.

Suns 128, Hawks 115: Devin Booker (30) and Eric Gordon (21) cooked the Hawks. Phoenix (41-29) is just outside the top six due to the tiebreaker with the Mavs.


March Madness is Awesome

Jack Gohlke broke our brackets

By now, we should all know better than to trust John Calipari as a March Madness coach. His Kentucky teams often fall short of tournament projections before we’re left with “rumors” he might leap back to the NBA. But last night was another one for the ages with Kentucky, which lost 80-76 to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. It all happened because a 3-point obsessive by the name of Jack Gohlke lit up the Wildcats and helped his team pull off the upset.

Gohlke, who was a D-II player the previous four years, is a 3-point specialist. I mean that because he literally took eight 2-point shots in 34 games this season but launched 327 3-point attempts. Against Kentucky, he went 10-of-20 from the field for 32 points off the bench – every attempt was a 3-pointer. His shooting put Kentucky down early. For the rest of the game, Oakland was just abusing the Wildcats everywhere else while the latter keyed in on stopping Gohlke.

He looks like a 25-year old insurance salesman or someone who has been selling solar paneling for the last decade. His effort took down the No. 3 seed Wildcats as Oakland moved on to the Round of 32. Don’t worry, though. Coach Cal made sure to throw his players under the bus.

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Health vs. Seeding

How should teams balance both?

Not every team in the current playoff push is as fortunate – nor as dominant – as the Boston Celtics (55-14, first in East). They’re cruising to the No. 1 seed in the East and don’t have much to worry about these days. We’re also not concerned with the Denver Nuggets (49-21, second in West), although they do need to be healthy to best exercise their championship pedigree.

Other teams now must approach the next couple of weeks wondering how to balance their pursuit of advantageous seeding (for Play-In or playoff hopes) and maintaining health for peak playoff performance/potential. So, which postseason hopefuls should concentrate on seeding and which teams need to focus on health? Let’s dive into it with applicable emojis!

Teams that need the health

Cleveland Cavaliers (43-26, third in East): I’m not sure Cleveland will benefit much from the No. 2 seed versus the No. 3 seed. After a regular season full of injuries, the Cavs should concentrate on health and ensure they can at least find their way to the second round. 🩻🩻🩻🩻🩻

New York Knicks (41-28, fifth in East): I truly believe New York, if healthy, could absolutely detonate the East playoffs. But the Knicks will need OG Anunoby’s elbow to cooperate and Julius Randle’s shoulder to heal as well. They shouldn’t worry about the third through fifth seeds. 🩹🩹🩹🩹🩹

LA Clippers (43-25, fourth in West): While I do think it’s beneficial for them to not be on the road for a Game 7 in any round, the Clippers are always at a health disadvantage when it comes to their stars and core. They need to concentrate on being 100 percent healthy for their imminent showdown with the Pelicans. 🩺🩺🩺🩺🩺

Phoenix Suns (41-29, seventh in West): Yes, the Suns should try to get out of the Play-In Tournament and find themselves in the top six to avoid potential early elimination. But we’ve barely seen this team healthy, which is what it needs to think about contending. 🛌🛌🛌🛌🛌

Teams that need the seeding

Milwaukee Bucks (45-25, second in East): It’s a little bit of a tricky situation, considering Giannis Antetokounmpo’s recent absence, but I do think grabbing the No. 2 seed would benefit Milwaukee. This will likely depend on Miami’s seeding, but the Bucks should make sure they have home court in a Game 7 in the first two rounds. ✌️✌️✌️✌️✌️

 

Miami Heat (38-31, seventh in East): I know the Heat made it through the gauntlet of the Play-In all the way to the Finals last year, but maybe let’s not try to play with fire every postseason. Miami needs to get into the top six. 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

 

Minnesota Timberwolves (47-22, third in West): Because we’re uncertain about Karl-Anthony Towns’ status moving forward, I do believe the Wolves need to set up as many favorable conditions as possible by grabbing the No. 1 seed. ☝️☝️☝️☝️☝️

Los Angeles Lakers (37-32, ninth in West): The Lakers need to play out this No. 9-10 matchup at home because they are just 12-20 on the road. They need all the help they can get. 🏠🏠🏠🏠🏠

One late bit of news: We learned via Shams just before hitting send that Brandon Ingram is expected to miss at least two weeks due to a bone contusion in his knee. We’ll see how that impacts the 42-27 Pelicans’ seeding, if it does at all.


Bounce Passes

I joined the First Ballot Podcast to discuss if Anthony Edwards’ recent dunk and block are Hall of Fame moments.

As expected, the G League Ignite program is being shut down.

Chris Paul reflected on once being GG Jackson’s AAU coach.

Here is how to keep up with today’s March Madness slate.


Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Cavs-Wolves (8 p.m. NBA TV). Minnesota is still hunting the No. 1 seed in the West. Cleveland is still seeking the No. 2 in the East.
  • Second Screen: UAB-San Diego State (1:45 p.m. TNT). Get ready for some bias. Go Aztecs! We back!
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Pacers-Warriors (10 p.m.). Let’s see a lead-guard clinic from Tyrese Haliburton and Steph Curry. Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Tim Warner /  Getty Images )





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