If ever there was one utterly unpredictable, controversial, spectacular play that illuminates how dramatically a team’s playoff position can change, it happened Tuesday night in The King’s mansion known as AmericanAirlines Arena.
If you didn’t see it live, you probably saw it on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes or your local sports station. From Brooklyn to Miami, Toronto to Phoenix, sports radio talk show hosts are raging over the last play in the Brooklyn Nets’ 88-87 win over the Miami Heat.
With two seconds left, LeBron James went charging to the basket like a Christmas shopper on Black Friday. He soared to the basket, poised to throw down the game-winning dunk – another sensational game-winner by the Chosen One.
Mason Plumlee, the rookie chosen with the 22nd pick in the draft didn’t get the memo: Rookies aren’t supposed to challenge the reigning MVP.
Up went the King. Up went the rookie. They met at the rim and the rookie won. Plumlee snuffed King’s dunk attempt.
Was it a foul? Was it a clean block? Is the hand part of the ball? Do you believe LeBron didn’t get the whistle in his house?
You can argue with the guy or gal to your left or right at your Crunch Gym all day and it won’t change this fact:
The Nets are 4-0 against the Heat, whose hold on the top seed in the Eastern Conference suddenly got a lot more tenuous. They are the first team to go 4-0 against the Heat since the Big 3 – James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade – united in Miami.
The Indiana Pacers are now just one game behind the Heat for the top spot. The Nets are now two games behind the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors, who are tied for the No. 3 and 4 spots.
Oh, it’s Crunch time in the NBA, baby. It’s Crunch Time.
Only one spot remains in the Eastern Conference.
The Atlanta Hawks, after losing at home Tuesday night to the Detroit Pistons, went into Wednesday night’s games holding a one and one-half game lead over the Knicks for that last spot.
It would still take a collapse of epic proportions for Atlanta not to get in. They have a two-game lead in the loss column. The Knicks (33-45) have four games left. The Hawks (34-43) have five.
The No. 3 and 4 seeds are thisclose. Toronto and Chicago were tied with records of 45-32. The Nets are fifth at 43-34, two games behind the Raptors and Bulls.
The Western Conference is really in Crunch Time.
The Golden State Warriors (48-29), Dallas Mavericks (48-31), Phoenix Suns (46-31) and Memphis Grizzlies (45-32) were separated by three games - four teams fighting for the final three playoff spots.
One thing is certain in the West: The San Antonio Spurs have all but locked up the No. 1 seed with a record of 60-18. Amazing.
The Spurs have locked up the Southwest Division title. The Los Angeles Clippers have claimed the Pacific Division and Oklahoma City has won the Northwest.
The end of the Nets-Heat game told you everything you need to know about the playoff picture. It might not be completely clear until the last play of the regular season.