Yes, closing night around the NBA was largely about sending off two of the league’s biggest legends off in style as Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade played the final games of their illustrious careers. And they did just that.
Despite losing to the Nets, Wade finished with a triple double in Brooklyn with the Banana Boat crew cheering him on, while Dirk closed things out rather fittingly with a fade-away jumper at the top of the key against the Spurs as Coach Pop hilariously berated one of his players for deigning to defend him.
But Wednesday also had massive playoff implications for several teams, particularly in the Eastern Conference. Now, after a flurry of final scores, the East’s playoff picture is set, and we finally have some clarity on who earned the eighth and final spot and how the bottom four teams will match-up when the postseason gets underway this weekend.
The Detroit Pistons Clinch The No. 8 Seed
The Pistons needed a win (or a Hornets loss) in their final game against the Knicks to earn their first playoff appearance since 2016, and they did just that with a decisive 115-89 victory over the lowly Knicks at Madison Square Garden. They did so without Blake Griffin in the lineup as he continues to battle a sore left knee and may need even more time to recover as the playoffs approach. Andre Drummond led the way with 20 points and 18 rebounds, and the Pistons are set to square off against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
The Brooklyn Nets Secure The No. 6 Seed
The Nets weren’t just trotted out at Barclays Center on Wednesday night as scarecrows for Dwyane Wade to score against in his final game. They actually needed the win to secure the sixth seed in the East, which they did with a 113-94 victory. They’ll square against the Sixers in the first round, who could potentially be without Joel Embiid for the opening salvo, depending on his prognosis, which remains murky at the moment.
The Orlando Magic Finish With The No. 7 Seed
In order to avoid being fodder for the No. 1 seed Bucks in the opening round, the Magic needed to win their game against the Hornets, which they did, 122-114, and in the process helped eliminate Charlotte from the playoffs despite Kemba Walker’s 43-point explosion. They’ll now face the No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors.
The Hornets Are Eliminated From Playoff Contention
Kemba Walker did everything in his power, going off for 43 points in a heart-breaking loss to the Orlando Magic in what was a must-win scenario for the Hornets to qualify for the playoffs. They also would’ve needed some luck from the other teams involved, which didn’t happen. It’s an outcome that could have deeper implications for the Hornets franchise as Walker enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent and will hear a lot of enticing offers this summer.
Eastern Conference Playoff Matchups
1. Bucks vs. 8. Pistons
2. Raptors vs. 7. Magic
3. Sixers vs. 6. Nets
4. Celtics vs. 5. Pacers