Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and Boston’s chances of avoiding a trip to the play-in tournament took a massive hit on Sunday afternoon with a loss to the Miami Heat. The Celtics are now two games behind Miami in the race for the six-seed in the East, with a head-to-head rematch looming tomorrow night. In a concerning trend, the Celtics managed to create an insurmountable deficit early, trailing by more than 20 points for the third time in five games. The Celtics face an uphill climb to avoid the play-in under any circumstance, but a loss to the Heat on Tuesday night would likely doom Boston’s hopes of avoiding the tournament.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal will likely miss the final week of the regular season due to a hamstring injury. Washington has managed to overcome its dreadful start to the season to qualify for the upcoming play-in tournament, and the Wizards seem keen to ensure Beal is close to full strength for it. The Wizards have a chance to move into a better seed within the play-in, but the risk of injury to Beal is too significant for the limited potential payout. Another downside to Beal’s injury is the end to his head-to-head clash with Stephen Curry for the league’s scoring title. Curry holds a slim lead over Beal entering the final week of the season.

Joining Beal and likely sitting out the rest of the regular season is Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell. Despite Utah being in the thick of a race with the Phoenix Suns for the top overall seed in the Western Conference, the Jazz are being extra cautious with its star guard. Mitchell has been out since mid-April. Despite Mithcell’s extended absence, the Jazz are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, maintaining a narrow lead over the Suns in the standings. Tonight, Utah will look to make it six straight in a road date with the Golden State Warriors.

New Orleans had its slim hopes of reaching the play-in tournament come to an unofficial end on Friday afternoon with the news that Zion Williamson will likely miss the rest of the regular season with a broken finger on his shooting hand. Williamson’s season may be coming to an abrupt end, but there’s no denying his incredible improvement this season. The near-limitless potential associated with Williamson entering last season came to fruition during his second year in the NBA. On most nights, he was an unstoppable force on offense. There’s work to be done on his defense, and the team around him needs plenty of work, but Williamson is cemented as a future MVP-level talent.

In desperate need of a win, the Los Angeles Lakers benefitted from a superstar performance from Anthony Davis to upset the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. Davis scored 42, grabbed a dozen boards, handed out five dimes, registered three steals, and blocked three shots. It was one of the more impressive one-man showcases of the season. The Lakers are currently looking at being participants in the play-in tournament—and a potential first-round date with either the Jazz or Suns. However, L.A. is a game behind Portland and two behind the Mavericks entering the final week of the season. There’s potentially hope for the Lakers, though a Tuesday night showdown with the Knicks will not be easy, nor will a back-to-back next weekend against a desperate Pacers team and a Pelicans team keen on ruining the L.A.’s hopes.

About as far removed from the playoff discussion as possible reside the rebuilding Detroit Pistons. That said, there is cause for optimism for Detroit heading into the future. Rookie Killian Hayes, who has had his debut season marred by injuries, continues to show signs of growth. On Sunday, Hayes eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the first time in his career. Turnovers remain an issue for Hayes, but his steady improvement is encouraging. Detroit boasts three rookies in notable roles during the season’s home stretch, and Hayes, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart are all showing they belong within Detroit’s rebuilding plans. With another likely top-five pick joining the team’s young core this off-season, the Pistons are shaping up to be an exciting team to watch next season.