by Alex Shultz
New York Knicks 109 (36-45), Brooklyn Nets 98 (44-37)
Even without Carmelo Anthony (torn labrum), the Knicks were able to make the Eastern Conference playoff picture a whole lot more interesting with a double-digit victory against the Nets.
Brooklyn entered Tuesday’s matchup with a 1.5 game advantage over the Washington Wizards for the No. 5 spot in the East. There had been some speculation earlier in the day that they might rest important role players to purposely fall to the sixth spot and avoid a first-round series against the Chicago Bulls, but every starter except Shaun Livingston (sprained big toe) suited up to play. Marcus Thornton led the team off the bench with 24 points, and Mason Plumlee also played well with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
New York used a 29-18 first quarter advantage to cruise to the win. Tim Hardaway Jr had 16 points, Cole Aldrich put up 13 and 13, and a total of six Knicks finished with at least 10 points. Despite a lackluster record, the Knicks did take three of four regular season matchups against their New York rivals.
If the Nets beat the Cavaliers or the Wizards lose to the Celtics, then Brooklyn claims the No. 5 seed. If Brooklyn loses and Washington wins, the Wizards get the fifth spot. If Toronto wins its season finale against New York, the Raptors will be locked into the third seed. If they lose and Chicago wins, the Bulls will clinch the third seed. Still lots to be decided in the East.
Los Angeles Clippers 117 (57-24), Denver Nuggets 105 (36-45)
The Clippers jumped out to a 13-0 run to start the game and never looked back en route to a franchise record 57th win on the season. Blake Griffin led Los Angeles in scoring with 24, and Chris Paul was equally effective with 21 points and 10 assists. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 16 rebounds, though he was an unimpressive 1-8 from the free throw line.
For the Nuggets, Aaron Brooks had a team-high 19 points and Timofey Mozgov added 18 and 11 rebounds. The Clippers still have an outside shot at the No. 2 seed in the West—they need to beat the Blazers and have the Thunder lose to the Pistons. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll open the postseason against the Golden State Warriors. Doc Rivers announced after Tuesday’s game that Griffin and JJ Redick won’t play against Portland, so it appears the second seed isn’t a top priority for Los Angeles.