It's hard not to feel a little depressed when you see the Detroit Pistons easily dispatch a team -- even one as bad as the Utah Jazz -- as you see teams jostling for positions in the lottery ranks. Luckily, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and most importantly, the New York Knicks were there to pick us Pistons fans up and dust us off.
There were only two Tank Watch games Tuesday night, but each carried major implications. Cleveland faced off against the Toronto Raptors while the Lakers faced the Knicks in a game that could be doubly good or doubly bad for the Pistons. A Knicks win and Lakers loss puts each team too far in both directions to help the Pistons much, but a Lakers win and Knicks loss meant that New York remained close enough to the Cavs for Cleveland to keep fighting while a Lakers win brought the team that much closer to Detroit.
Then the third quarter at Staples Center happened. A 51-31 shellacking of the Knicks at the hands of the Lakers. In case you're wondering scoring and giving up 51 points is a record in a single quarter is a record for both clubs. And that followed a 16-point second-quarter drubbing en route to a 127-96 Lakers win.
With the victory, Los Angeles sits two games up on Detroit. Meanwhile, Cleveland managed to capitalize on the Knicks lost despite its best efforts to give the game away. Cleveland had a 21-point lead in the third quarter but eventually gave up the lead in the final minutes. The Cavs were able to regroup, however, and escape with a 102-100 win. The Cavs are now one full game ahead of the Pistons and 1.5 games behind the Knicks.
On to today's slate!
Cleveland at Detroit
This is the big one, guys and gals. Considering the trajectories of both of these teams, I'd wager that if Cleveland won this game and went two games up on Detroit then that lead would be practically insurmountable. If the Pistons win, however, and the teams fall into a tie then it is, obviously, much more of a tossup.
Root for: Cleveland
Toronto at Boston
The Raptors just lost to the Cavs at home so there is a solid chance they could drop one on the road to the Celtics. The Raps have dropped four of six, losing to some bad teams. The Celtics, however, aren't exactly lighting the world on fire. Boston has dropped six of seven with its only victory, strangely enough, against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Root for: Boston
New York at Sacramento
What can the Knicks do for an encore? A Kings win and Pistons loss puts the two teams in a tie for the No. 7 spot in the lottery rankings. And this is a big game as the Kings have few remaining winnable games left. It's easiest opponents remaining are the Hornets, Lakers and maybe the Suns to finish out the season. That's two, maybe three games, out of the final 12.
Root for: Sacramento