NBA schedule: Jazz face Thunder, Lakers face Hornets with playoffs on line

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of playoff implications in Tuesday night's action, but probably the most intriguing comes in the race for the Western Conference's eighth spot, with both the Jazz and Lakers in action.

The NBA is back after taking a brief respite - gotta let the NCAA National Championship game have the main stage all to itself, so true NBA fans can either remark on how superior of a product the NBA is or scout out a few of next year's draft picks - with ten games on Tuesday night's docket. With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, there's some serious playoff seeding implications, and all eyes will be on the Lakers and Jazz as they continue to be neck-and-neck for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Here's each game tonight - all times are Eastern.

7 p.m., Cleveland Cavaliers (24-52) vs. Indiana Pacers (48-29)

The Pacers still have an outside shot at beating out the Knicks the second seed, although its tough to say whether you'd rather want to play the tepid Celtics or downright frigid Hawks in the first round. Either way, Indiana's lost two blowouts in a row and seem content to coast into the playoffs. The Cavs have now won two in a row with Tristan Thompson playing like a top 5 pick, including a 29-point, 17-rebound outing, but they'd lost ten in a row before that, so they're not world-beaters.

TV: Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Indiana

7:30 p.m.: Milwaukee Bucks (36-37) vs. Miami Heat (60-16)

The Heat are probably going to sleepwalk over the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. They'll try to do the same Tuesday night with Dwyane Wade probably resting until the end of the regular season. Even if Milwaukee does have some trick up their sleeves where Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings do some Voltron-esque thing to create something capable of beating Miami, they'd be smart to keep it shelved tonight.

TV: Sun Sports, Fox Sports Milwaukee

7:30 p.m.: Washington Wizards (29-48) vs. New York Knicks (50-26)

Everything's going well for the Knicks right now: they just clinched their first 50-win season since 1999, they've got the NBA's longest active winning streak at 12, Carmelo Anthony is Eastern Conference player of the week after hanging 50 on the Heat, 40 on the Hawks, 41 on the Bucks, and 36 points against the Thunder in a game OKC wanted, and they can clinch the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1994 with a win. But Washington's no pushover with John Wall in the lineup, something New York learned earlier in the year when they had a five-game win streak snapped by a 21-point, nine-assist effort from Wall.

TV: MSG, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic

7:30 p.m.: Philadelphia 76ers (31-45) vs. Brooklyn Nets (44-32)

Philadelphia's been listless to end the season, while Brooklyn falls out of contention for the Atlantic Division title with one more loss. Deron Williams has put up 30 points in back-to-back games as he tries to will his Nets into a top-four spot in the playoffs, which will give them home court advantage, but stuff like Gerald Wallace saying his confidence is "totally gone" isn't inspriring.

TV: YES, The Comcast Network

8 p.m.: Phoenix Suns (23-54) vs. Houston Rockets (43-34)

This one's on NBATV, due to some playoff implications: It all seems to be coming together for a team that's boasted alternately strong efforts from James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and Chandler Parsons, but they just need slightly more. It's of utmost importance to get to the 6th seed rather than the 7th - its the difference between playing either the Spurs or Thunder and the less-proven Nuggets - but Houston remains a game back of Golden State. They'd won five straight before losing quite convincingly to Denver with Parsons out of the lineup - but he should be good to go Tuesday night. It seemed like four games against the cellar-dwelling Suns in the last month and a half of the season would help, but they dropped the first in March despite a 38-point effort from Harden. They won the second easily behind five double-digit scorers a few weeks later.

TV: NBATV, Comcast SportsNet Houston Houston, Fox Sports Arizona

8 p.m.: Charlotte Bobcats (18-59) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (52-25)

The Grizzlies are fighting for the third spot in the West - they're a game back of the Nuggets - and we'd have to guess Charlotte won't put up much of a fight. The Grizzlies have won five of six, the Bobcats... haven't.

TV: SportSouth

8 p.m.: Toronto Raptors (29-48) vs. Chicago Bulls (42-34)

The Bulls are expected to put together their 14th starting lineup of the year with Luol Deng expected to once again be out, joining the Bulls' trauma ward. With Derrick Rose - obviously - Rip Hamilton, Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson all missing time, Carlos Boozer is the only would-be starter who's actually healthy. There are playoff implications for Chicago, as the Bulls are trying to seize the fourth spot and the homecourt advantage that comes with it, but I think they'd just be happy to survive until the end of the year without more injuries.

TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago, SNET

9 p.m.: Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21) vs. Utah Jazz (41-37)

I think this is your game of the night right here, since it's very obvious there's something at stake for both teams. For Oklahoma City? They want the top spot in the West, and they're a game behind the Spurs right now. It would be important for the team to ensure homecourt advantage through the Western Conference Finals, and a morale booster. For Utah? They just want to make the playoffs, and are only .5 games up on the Lakers.

Utah has now won two straight, and seven of eight, with hot three point shooting from Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward propelling them to some wins. Oklahoma City has taken two of three in the season series, but Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combined for 41 in a methodical Utah win highlighted by a frustrated Kevin Durant committing a flagrant foul.

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain +

10:30 p.m., New Orleans Hornets (27-50) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (40-37)

It's getting to be do-or-die for a Lakers squad down .5 games on Utah, not including the tiebreaker they don't have. That's why Metta World Peace will be back in action Tuesday night just about two weeks after undergoing knee surgery - they need all hands on deck. Although they've won all three against the lowly Hornets, it hasn't been easy - they trailed by 25 in the most recent game before Kobe Bryant put took over, sparking a 20-0 run en route to 42 points. Kobe's switched back and forth between trying to lead his team to wins through passing when defenders key in on him and being forced to will his team to wins through forced shots, something he isn't so bad at - and something that's been better than virtually any other option for LA this year.

TV: NBATV, Time Warner Sports Network, Fox Sports New Orleans

10:30 p.m.: Minnesota Timberwolves (29-47) vs. Golden State Warriors (44-33)

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will keep trying to shoot their way to the sixth spot over the Rockets, and considering they've won five straight against Minnesota, it's probably in the cards. A win will clinch their first playoff berth in since 2007, but the bigger issue is the race against Houston.

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