Just like that, something that began on December 26th will come to an end tonight in Houston as our New Orleans Hornets visit a Houston Rockets team that they helped eliminate from the postseason. There's a lot going on tonight in the NBA, this game included, that has implications on everything from playoff seeding all the way to ping pong balls. The last night of the 2011/2012 NBA Season is sure to be a wild one.
Just focusing on our game as a whole, the Hornets, with a win, could fall the way to the 7th worst record in the league. It'd be a huge fall from when the team, at one point, had the 2nd worst record in the league this season and has long maintained the third worst all season long. Monty Williams has been an anti-tanking advocate throughout this entire year and will, certainly, have his team ready to play tonight; what will be available of that team anyways. It's frustrating to watch for some fans as it feels like the extra frustrating year will have no lottery reward for it but it should be encouraging, as well, when you see what Monty is able to squeeze out of the talent that he has.
It's been a really tough year as it is, and both teams enter tonight with some frustrations. Houston had their eyes set on the playoffs all year long and were, in my opinion, a dangerous low seed team if they were to make it. But injuries to Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry wrecked the season (especially when Lowry tried to come back and messed with the team chemistry). It's unknown whether or not they'll go out there and play, but about a week ago the Hornets beat the Rockets in overtime and dealt them a huge blow in their postseason dreams.
A loss tonight guarantees the Hornets a finish somewhere in the 3rd-5th worst range. It's amazing to see how many teams have become advocates for tanking this season (more so than any other year I've seen) but we must feel dumb because our team is probably the only one outside of Toronto (who's awful) and Sacramento (who just has weird chemistry problems) that will seem to care tonight.
Out for the Rockets will be Kyle Lowry (hernia), Kevin Martin (shoulder), Chandler Parsons (shoulder) and Marcus Camby (back). Meanwhile, the Hornets will be without the services of Jarrett Jack (foot), Eric Gordon (back), Trevor Ariza (listed as ankle), Jason Smith (ankle), Emeka Okafor (knee) and Chris Kaman (tibia).
The games you need to also watch tonight as they have implications on the Hornets standing are:
New Jersey Nets (22-43) @ Toronto Raptors (22-43) at 6:00 P.M. Central Time
If the Hornets win tonight's game, they could very well be passed by one of these teams in the draft lottery. If the Hornets lose, they avoid worrying about that but all of the teams in the 21-23 range (and there's a lot) could be impacted by this game.
Cleveland Cavaliers (21-44) @ Chicago Bulls (49-16) at 7:00 P.M. Central Time
The Spurs could have done us a huge favor and loss last night; assuring Chicago of home court advantage throughout the playoffs but they won at Phoenix without Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, Neal and even Gregg Popovich. Thanks, Phoenix! Because of that, Chicago may play everyone which would almost assure that Cleveland would lose tonight; as they'll be without Kyrie Irving. Should Cleveland win tonight, though, and the Hornets lose, it would put the Hornets in prime position for the third worst record.
Denver Nuggets (37-28) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (26-39) at 7:00 P.M. Central Time
Doesn't seem that long ago we were arguing about whether the Timberwolves pick was going to be any better than the Knicks pick, but due to injuries to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, it is. Should the Timberwolves lose tonight (and they may; George Karl has mentioned that they will play no matter what and take their match-up regardless of who it is) then Minnesota could finish with a top ten worst record.
Los Angeles Lakers (41-24) @ Sacramento Kings (21-44) at 9:30 P.M. Central Time
Nobody really knows what's going on in Sacramento, but this could possibly (again, for the second straight year) be the last game in Sacramento for the Kings franchise and, again, it's against the hated Los Angeles Lakers. If anyone remembers, we were pulling for Sacramento to win on the final night last night to help the Hornets avoid the Lakers; something they couldn't do. Tonight, Kobe Bryant has a chance at the NBA Scoring title and will play (which makes no sense because the Lakers already have the third seed locked up; but Mike Brown has been atrocious at managing minutes all season long so I'm not surprised) so Sacramento may try and, again, fail. But we hope they win!
For the record, tonight's all about Geaux
Hornets Cavaliers, Nuggets and Kings.