Enormous Consequences: One Battle, Two Wars

The Thursday night game that will get the lion's share of attention as a clash of Eastern titans will be the Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls (8 p.m. ET, TNT). That's fair: the No. 1 seed in the East is still in play, and Miami needs a win on Thursday to make its assault.

But in terms of real widespread bracket-busting impact, the L.A. Clippers' visit to the Phoenix Suns (10:30 p.m., TNT) matters more.

With a win, L.A. can even up its record with that of the Lakers in the quest for the Pacific crown and the No. 3 seed in the West. That No. 3 seed likely comes with a first-round match-up against the Dallas Mavericks or Denver Nuggets, worthy foes that are nonetheless far less frightening than the Memphis Grizzlies, who sit solidly in No. 5. The second-round impact is less obvious because the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs continue to battle for No. 1; you can't expect to put off a meeting with the Thunder for as long as possible by winning the No. 3 seed. You just don't know when they will come up.

But the first-round difference matters, and that's why the war for No. 3 continues.

Phoenix has a different war to fight: one for survival. The Suns fell to the mighty Thunder on Wednesday, allowing the Utah Jazz to take a turn in the No. 8 seed. The Suns are a half-game back with one fewer game played, and still have to worry about the Houston Rockets, who have lost five straight games but sit even up with Phoenix. A win here will be difficult, but crucial as the Rockets draw the inferior (but suddenly tough) New Orleans Hornets.

If the Rockets can't beat the Hornets (8 p.m.), it's time to break out the cabbage and weep.

The Milwaukee Bucks are essentially done after Wednesday's loss to the Washington Wizards; any hope at survival requires a win over the rolling Indiana Pacers (7 p.m. ET).

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.