NBA Schedule: Hawks-Raptors, Clippers-Trail Blazers each have playoff implications


Both games on Tuesday night's schedule feature teams trying to improve their playoff standing -- the Hawks trying to move higher on the ladder, the Clippers trying to seal home-court advantage.

With the cancelation of Tuesday night's game between the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics -- the first time since the institution of the 82-game season that teams will finish a year without playing 82 games -- there are just two games on the second-to-last regular-season evening of the 2012-13 season, and both have playoff implications.

8 p.m. ET: Toronto Raptors (32-48) vs. Atlanta Hawks (44-36)

What it means: The Hawks are half of a game ahead of the Chicago Bulls for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls hold the tiebreaker. If the Hawks win Tuesday night, they can seal the higher seed with a win against the Knicks Wednesday night. If they lose Tuesday night, they have to beat the Knicks Wednesday and hope the Bulls lose to the Wizards. The team that wins the fifth seed plays the Brooklyn Nets, the team that gets the sixth seed plays the Indiana Pacers.

The Raptors are out of the playoffs, but they won't let the Hawks walk here. They actually just beat the shorthanded Bulls twice in a home-and-home to make this a close situation in the first place. Rudy Gay against Josh Smith is the stuff rangy dreams are made of, if only we can tell them not to shoot 22-footers. Atlanta's won both of the matchups between these squads so far, one on an Al Horford dunk with under a shot clock remaining.

More: Raptors HQ, Peachtree Hoops

10:30 p.m. ET: Portland Trail Blazers (33-47) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (54-26)

What it means: The Clippers are half a game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for home-court advantage in the playoff series between the two teams. (Due to weird NBA technicalities, the Clippers will be the fourth seed regardless of who has the better record, but the team with the better record will get home-court advantage.) The Clippers hold the tiebreaker. If they win Tuesday, they'll be able to seal home-court advantage with a win against the Kings Wednesday. If they lose, they'll need a win against the Kings plus a Grizzlies loss in their season finale against the Utah Jazz.

The good news for the Clippers here? Portland has given up the ship, losing 11 straight, while the Clips won five in a row. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews sat out of Portland's last game with injuries, putting Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver, and Will Barton in the lineup -- not as intimidating. It's not clear if the starters will be back for game 81 of 82, but Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would much rather face a frontline boasting Leonard, Joel Freeland, and J.J. Hickson than one with Aldridge in it.

More: Blazer's Edge, Clips Nation

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