... about the NBA:
1. The Sixers, after playing so well to dig themselves out of an early-season hole, have come apart just short of the finish line. They had a legitimate shot at the No. 5 seed after beating Detroit to clinch a playoff spot April 4, but have since lost six straight. Now they must win and hope Chicago loses to avoid the No. 7 spot and a first-round series with a fully loaded Celtics team they couldn't beat at half-speed in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Boston was without Kevin Garnett, due to return tonight from injury, and the suspended Ray Allen, but still got by Philadelphia 100-98. The Sixers had plenty of shots at the end, but failed to make a single field goal in the final 2:24. Paul Pierce carried the scoring load, as you might expect, pouring in 31 points for Boston, but the Sixers couldn't contain emergency starter Tony Allen, either, as he shot 8-for-14 for 18 points and chipped in five assists, four rebounds and three steals. The Celtics, already having clinched their seed and with nothing to play for, were allowed to shoot 52 percent as a team as the Sixer defense laid down. The Celtics, who are concerned about Garnett's health even when he does come back, couldn't have drawn up a better first-round opponent for themselves.
2. The Lakers have been locked into their playoff position for several days, but Phil Jackson rarely sees any game as meaningless. It was no doubt satisfying to their coach that the Lakers issued a 125-112 pounding to the team they'll be seeing in a first round matchup on the final night of the regular season. L.A. abused Utah inside, getting 22 points from Andrew Bynum and 20 plus nine rebounds and six assists from Pau Gasol. Lamar Odom added 16 off the bench, keying a reserve unit that continues to round into shape thanks in large part to the emergence of Shannon Brown, who is challenging Jordan Farmer for his spot as backup point guard and last night scored nine points in 20 minutes. Brown allows the Lakers to reliably go 11 deep if they want to, and gives L.A. just one more weapon in an already well-stocked arsenal. The Jazz countered with Deron Williams and his 25 points and got 20 off the bench from their AK-47, Andrei Kirilenko, but simply don't have the firepower to pull of an upset if Carlos Boozer, who scored 16 points, can't match the production of the Laker bigs.
3. The playoffs are on their way, and so is the Three Random Observations ... preview. We'll have the Eastern Conference breakdown on Friday and the Western Conference up Saturday before the games begin. The blog will continue throughout the playoffs. It should be a fun couple of months. I'll be trying very hard not to forget life outside of basketball exists. Especially because I'm getting married in June (but not on a day when any games are scheduled, of course!)