Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Tuesday, April 1

Joe Flynn@@ChinaJoeFlynnContributor IApril 2, 2014

AP Images

Though there were only three games played on Tuesday night in the NBA, each contest held playoff implications.

In what might have been the game of the year, the desperate Dallas Mavericks were done in by another dagger jumper from the hands of Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry.

The Brooklyn Nets handled the Houston Rockets, keeping alive their hope of claiming home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

In Los Angeles, the Portland Trail Blazers held off the Lakers and strengthened their grasp on the fifth seed.

Eastern Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
New York32-43.4272021-24

Clinched: Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds)

Charlotte Bobcats: 99.9 percent

Atlanta Hawks: 81.9 percent  

New York Knicks: 14.2 percent

Cleveland Cavaliers: 4.0 percent

Eliminated from Contention: Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks.

If Playoffs Started Today

Miami vs. Atlanta (Miami leads season series, 2-1)

Indiana vs. Charlotte (Indiana won season series, 2-1)

Toronto vs. Washington (Toronto won season series, 3-1)

Chicago vs. Brooklyn (Chicago won season series, 2-1)

Western Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
San Antonio58-16.784-34-10
Oklahoma City54-19.7403.532-13
L.A. Clippers53-22.7075.532-13
Golden State46-28.6161226-18
New Orleans32-42.4322613-31
L.A. Lakers25-49.3383313-31

Clinched: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers.

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds)

Golden State Warriors: 99.0 percent

Memphis Grizzlies: 83.6 percent

Dallas Mavericks: 72.8 percent

Phoenix Suns: 44.6 percent

Eliminated from Contention: Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, L.A. Lakers, Utah Jazz

If Playoffs Started Today

San Antonio vs. Phoenix (San Antonio leads 2-1)

Oklahoma City vs. Memphis (Oklahoma City won 3-1)

L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State (season series tied, 2-2)

Houston vs. Portland (Houston won season series, 3-1)

Wednesday's Schedule
New York KnicksBrooklyn Nets7 p.m. ET
Indiana PacersDetroit Pistons7 p.m. ET
Orlando MagicCleveland Cavaliers7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia 76ersCharlotte Bobcats7 p.m. ET
Toronto RaptorsHouston Rockets7 p.m. ET
Washington WizardsBoston Celtics7 p.m. ET
Atlanta HawksChicago Bulls7:30 p.m. ET
Miami HeatMilwaukee Bucks7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota TimberwolvesMemphis Grizzlies8 p.m. ET
San Antonio SpursGolden State Warriors8:30 p.m. ET
Denver NuggetsNew Orleans Pelicans9 p.m. ET
Phoenix SunsLos Angeles Clippers10 p.m. ET
Sacramento KingsLos Angeles Lakers10 p.m. ET

Unanswered Questions 

1. Will the Brooklyn Nets get home-court advantage?

Not only did the Brooklyn Nets officially clinch a playoff berth with their 105-96 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, but they also set a franchise record with their 14th consecutive home win. They haven't lost at Barclays Center since losing two straight to the Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder at the end of January.

Seven Nets finished in double figures, led by Joe Johnson's 32 points. 

The win pulled Brooklyn to within 1.5 games of the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors for home-court advantage in the first round. Both Chicago and Toronto have played one more game than the Nets.

While Brooklyn doesn't necessarily need home court in order to vanquish its first-round opponent—be it Chicago, Toronto or the Washington—the Nets would be foolish not to exploit their home hot streak to the fullest.

Fortunately for the Nets, there is only one club left on their schedule with a winning record: the Miami Heat.

2. Will James Harden play postseason defense?

For the Houston Rockets, there is no shame in losing a road game to a red-hot Brooklyn squad. Houston was without All-Star center Dwight Howard, as well as starters Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley.

Star shooting guard James Harden believes this team only needs to get healthy to regain its potential, per NBA.com's Jake Appleman:

We had the same problem earlier in the season and we thought we were getting over it, getting guys healthy and getting into a mojo, groove, and now we have three of our starters out and we have to find a way to play through it. We will be alright.

And Harden did everything he could to produce a win for Houston...on one side of the court. He scored 26 points in true Harden style, by getting to the free-throw line and shooting a perfect 16-of-16. 

But he also routinely botched his defensive assignment on Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, who led all scorers with 32 points. And Harden's poor defense started to affect him on the other end, as he shot 1-of-5 from the field in the second half. NBA analyst Bob Voulgaris couldn't help but notice the correlation:

Houston's defensive stopper, Beverley, is by no means guaranteed to return to action after tearing a ligament in his knee. Even if he does return, he will not be at full strength. The Rockets will need Harden to play better defense if they are to succeed in the postseason.

3. Will Steph Curry single-handedly keep Dallas out of the playoffs?

On Dec. 11, Golden State Warriors sniper Steph Curry took the ball with mere seconds left on the clock, and his team tied with the Dallas Mavericks. Curry then sank a cold-blooded long-range jumper with three ticks left on the clock to hand Dallas a 95-93 defeat.

On April 1, Curry took the ball with mere seconds left on the clock, and his team tied with the Dallas Mavericks. Curry then sank a cold-blooded long-range jumper with 0.1 ticks left on the clock to hand Dallas a 122-120 defeat.

Without Curry, the Mavericks might be sitting pretty with the seventh seed in the Western Conference. As it stands now, however, the Mavericks are on the outside looking in. They now have one more loss than both the Grizzlies and Suns, with only seven games left to play.

The good news: None of those games are against Steph Curry.


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