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Peripheral Vision - important NBA games (that don't involve the Cavaliers)

Heading into tonight's game at Milwaukee, the Cleveland Cavaliers have 19 games left in the regular season.  With a decent lead on the rest of the NBA, we are certainly in control of our own destiny, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be keeping a watchful eye at our nearest competitors or our potential opponents in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

With that in mind, Fear The Sword begin a new series today.  We'll be looking at the entire NBA schedule and flagging games that Cavs fans should be aware of.

Today's games of importance (besides the obvious Cavaliers/Bucks game) include the following;

Golden State at Charlotte, 7pm EST - Yes, we're keeping a watch on two teams that would not make the playoffs if the season ended now.  Charlotte seems to have the Cavaliers number, and if we want to avoid them in the first round, this game would be important.  The Bobcats are flying high after curbstomping the Lakers last night, so let's see if they suffer a little letdown.

Atlanta at Miami, 7:30pm EST - Despite the Hawks maintaining third place in the conference, this game should be watched for the Heat factor.  Miami is in the 8th slot, but only a half-game out of 7th.  The Cavs have been able to handle Miami all season, but they'd still make a formidable first-round opponent.  I'd rather see the Bulls or the Bucks in the opening round.

Dallas at Chicago, 8pm EST - The Bulls are sliding, having dropped three in a row (along with the loss of Joakim Noah).  meanwhile, Dallas has won 10 in a row and look as dominating as they have in years.  If the Mavs continue their winning ways, Chicago will be sent to another big loss and may find themselves in that final playoff slot by sunrise tomorrow.

The relevant Eastern Conference standings currently look like this;

Cleveland 49 14 ---
Orlando 43 20 6.0
Atlanta 40 21 8.0
Boston 39 21 8.5
Toronto 32 28 15.5
Milwaukee 32 29 16.0
Chicago 31 30 17.0
Miami 31 31 17.5
Charlotte 29 31 18.5


Is the race for #1 over?  Not officially, but it's very close.  A six-game margin is almost insurmountable with 19 games left to play, but let's give it a week before we don the crown.  If we're still up five or six games next Saturday, we'll call it.

The Charlotte Bobcats are the odd team out at this moment, but they are also only three games out of fifth place.  Those final four playoff spots in the East are all up for grabs, and they will be heavily contested down to the final game.

Meanwhile, the race for supremacy in the entire NBA looks to be a two-team race.

Cleveland 49 14 ---
L.A. Lakers 46 17 3.0

The boys at Silver Screen And Roll will disagree heartily, but this race might be about a week away from being over.  That 3-game deficit is as good as a four-game margin.  The Cavaliers hold the tiebreaker, so the Lakers technically need to make up four games in a hurry if they want home court advantage in a potential Cavs/Lakers NBA Finals.

Think about it.  The Cavs have 19 games left.  If they hold true to their record for the season (.778 win percentage), that means they're on track to go 15-4 the rest of the season.  The Lakers would have to go 19-0 in order to capture home court advantage.  Possible, but not very likely.

However, anything can happen in the NBA, so we'd better watch our competition tonight.  One eye on the Cavs/Bucks, the other on the scoreboard.