The NBA playoff push starts now with all-star break ending

The NBA playoff push starts now with all-star break ending
Milwaukee, Toronto, Indiana, Boston, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, Denver, can all go ahead and cancel those mid-April vacation plans if they were foolish enough to have made them in the first place.

Team Giannis Stephen Curry, of the Golden State Warriors, goes up for a reverse two-handed dunk, as Team LeBron s LeBron James, of the Los Angeles Lakers, looks on during the 2019 NBA All-Star 2019 game at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday, February 17, 2019.  (David T. Foster III / TNS)

For LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, some work awaits them.

The all-star break ends Thursday, with about one-third of the season remaining for most clubs — and that means the playoff push now gets very serious. Nobody has officially clinched a spot yet, though it would take a highly improbable series of events for the current top teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences to miss the post-season.

“Every year is a new challenge, different circumstances,” Golden State guard Stephen Curry said. “We are motivated. We understand what’s at stake.”

James has been to the NBA Finals in each of the last eight seasons, all out of the East — four with Miami, four with Cleveland. His Los Angeles Lakers currently are 10th in the West, three games behind the Clippers for the final playoff berth.

James has been to the playoffs in 13 consecutive seasons.

“I hope that first off, we all get healthy,” Lakers President Magic Johnson said. “This has been one of the worst seasons I’ve ever been around Laker basketball as far as injuries are concerned. When we were healthy, we were in fourth place. Now we’re like 10th place. But when you’ve got LeBron James, anything is possible.”

The Miami Heat are part of a six-team, three-spot race in the East, and Wade is hoping for one last post-season trip out of his 16th and final season. Heat President Pat Riley said he thinks the way the Heat ended its pre-all-star schedule — with a 2-3 road trip, though one where Miami could have won four of the games — is a good sign.

“It looks as though there’s something happening here,” Riley said.

Sacramento is right in the race to end the NBA’s longest current playoff drought; the Kings haven’t been to the post-season since 2006. Phoenix’s drought will hit nine straight seasons, but Orlando — currently holders of the third-longest drought at six seasons — hit the break with a five-game winning streak and is in the East mix.

“I think we feel good about ourselves,” Magic all-star forward Nikola Vucevic said. “I know we have good confidence.”
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