This is the time of the NBA season when some suspicious results tend to pop up. If teams wish, they can attempt to manipulate their seeding by taking a loss.
And let’s make this clear – you don’t do that by telling your players to lose. You simply hold your best players out of the game and turn it over to the end of your bench. That usually does the trick.
Check out the Los Angeles Clippers’ loss, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George “resting,” to Houston’s G-League team Friday night.
All that did was allow the Clippers, if the standings stay as-is, to make sure they avoided any chance of a matchup with the Lakers in the first or second rounds.
Of course, the Denver Nuggets could double-cross the Clips by losing to Portland Sunday night – a game scheduled for the same time as the Clippers take on Oklahoma City.
There is a lot of talk around town that the Trail Blazers ought to take a strategic approach to their Sunday night game with the Nuggets.
If, for example, Portland lost the game, it would probably fall into a play-in matchup with Golden State for the seventh seed – meaning a win in that game would set up a likely first-round matchup with the Phoenix Suns – a seemingly more favorable opponent than others in the top half of the Western Conference bracket.
But that would be a gamble, since it means if the Blazers lose two straight play-in games, they would not make the playoffs. And it would cut into the team’s rest prior to the first round.
But count Terry Stotts among those who don’t seem interested in messing with the basketball gods.
“My general feeling, for years, has been ‘Don’t ‘F’ with the game,’” he said. “You know, to me, karma can be a bitch -- and be careful what you wish for.
“So, we're going to play the game and compete and try to win the game. Stay out of the play-in game. That's kind of our mindset.”
A couple of seasons ago, it appeared that the Blazers were attempting to manipulate their seeding when they used only six bench players in a season-ending game vs. Sacramento.
A loss in that game would have allowed Portland to avoid Oklahoma. City – which had dominated the Blazers in the regular season – in the first round.
But Portland won the game – and defeated the Thunder in five games in the first round. Stotts says there was no intent to take a dive in that game.
“The truth was that it didn't matter one way or the other,” Stotts said. “I'm glad we won. I think resting guys -- that was a grind, so it was more resting guys and whatever the result happened, happened.”
And it’s going to be Sunday night before we find out if a team might attempt to challenge an invisible foe: