The NBA’s last day of the regular season offers 14 games!
· Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors
· San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans
· Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
· Washington Wizards at Cleveland Cavaliers
· Portland Trailblazers at Dallas
· Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets
· Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks
· Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves
· Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets
· Detroit Pistons at New York Knicks
· Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers
· Indiana Pacers at Golden State Warriors
· Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors
· Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers
Of these games, the following have some form of impact on the Western Conference standings. I would note that since Golden State, Dallas, and Portland have their respective seeds locked up, they aren’t included below.
San Antonio Spurs (55-26) at New Orleans Pelicans (44-37)
Time: 5:00 PM PST
Injuries: For the Pelicans, Jrue Holiday (leg) is Questionable. For the Spurs, Matt Bonner (calf) and Tiago Splitter (calf) are Out.
· The Spurs are playing for the Southwest divisional crown and with it a 2nd overall seed. That’s a sexy prize given it means not only a relatively easy first round match up (Dallas), but also home-court advantage for the 2nd round. The Spurs control their own destiny; win and the second seed is theirs. Otherwise, the Spurs open the playoffs at home against the Trailblazers and will have to go on the road for the second round. Still, the bright side being the 5th seed is that Portland is completely decimated by injury and represent not much of a threat for the playoffs. If the Spurs lose, and Houston wins, the Spurs will be forced to play the Clippers in the first round. That’d be a tough matchup regardless who is favored. Neither team wants this matchup for the first round.
· The Pelicans control their own destiny. Win and they get the 8th seed. Lose and they’ll need to root for the Timberwolves to somehow beat Russell Westbrook. That’s unlikely to happen, so it’s basically win or stay home (for the playoffs) for the Pelicans. As a Clippers fan, it’s unlikely that BOTH the Spurs and Rockets will lose. If that’s the case, you do NOT want the Pelicans to win because that means it’s the Spurs versus the Clippers in the FIRST ROUND. On the other hand, if you want the dream scenario of a second seed for the Clippers and a tougher match up for the Warriors in the first round, you’ll root for the Pelicans to win. Basically, a realist wants the Spurs to win.
Utah Jazz (38-43) at Houston Rockets (55-26)
Time: 5:00 PM PST
Injuries: The Jazz have been without Alec Burks (shoulder) who is Out for the Season. Trey Burke (back) is Probable. Gordon Hayward (Achilles) however is Doubtful. The Rockets are without Donatas Motiejunas (back) and Patrick Beverley (wrist) for the rest of the season. Kostas Papanikolaou (ankle) is Questionable.
· Houston does not control its own destiny for the second seed. It needs the Spurs to lose. Still, being "stuck" at 5th isn't a bad thing as noted above for the Spurs. If Houston loses and the Spurs win (along with a Memphis win), the Rockets would tumble to 6th and face the Clippers. Simply put, no one wants to be facing the Clippers in the opening round when there are easier options on the table (that come with home-court advantage no less).
· If the Spurs somehow lose, then this game becomes huge: the Rockets MUST LOSE at that point. That would give the Clippers the 2nd seed and the best possible outcome they could’ve asked for coming into tonight. If the Rockets were to win, then the Clippers are completely boned because they’re set to face the Spurs in the first round.
Indiana Pacers (38-43) at Memphis Grizzlies (54-27)
Time: 6:30 PM PST
Injuries: The Pacers lost Chris Copeland (abdomen, elbow) for the season and will be without C.J. Watson (elbow) for this last regular game. The Grizzlies are tonight without Tony Allen (hamstring) and Mike Conley (foot).
Impact: The Grizzlies will have their options laid out for them by around half time of their game. This will matter because Indiana must win to secure the 8th seed in the East. This by no means will be a cakewalk game if 2 interested teams are competing.
· If both Houston and San Antonio win, Memphis has nothing to play for because they are 6th right now and they would have no chance to pass anyone.
· If one of Houston and San Antonio lose, Memphis has the tiebreaker over that team due to a superior divisional record and Memphis has the 5th seed in play. That’s worth home-court in the first round against Portland and thus is something worth getting.
· If BOTH Houston and San Antonio lose, then Memphis gets screwed because the 3-way tiebreaking process means Memphis draws the short end of the stick anyhow and is stuck at the 6th seed. This likely won’t happen, but who knows.
Oklahoma City Thunder (44-37) at Minnesota Timberwolves (16-65)
Time: 5:00 PM PST
Injuries: For the Thunder, Durant (foot) is Out for the Season. Ibaka (knee) is expected to return soon, but no specific date is laid out. For the Timberwolves, Rubio (ankle), Pekovic (ankle), and Shabazz Muhammad (finger) have been Out for the Season). Gorgui Dieng (face), Garnett (knee), and Gary Neal (ankle) will miss this last game of the season. Kevin Martin (ill) and Anthony Bennett (ankle) are Questionable. Chase Budinger (ankle) is Doubtful. Justin Hamilton (hamstring) is Probable.
Impact: The least impactful game (that still has some meaning). This game happens at the same time as the Spurs-Pelicans game, so it’ll be interesting to see the respective teams scoreboard-watch. The Thunder have the easier path the playoffs at this point given this is likely an easy win compared to the Pelicans’ game. If the Thunder win, they’ll play the Warriors in the first round. However, because Ibaka isn’t specifically returning in time for the start of the playoffs, the Thunder remain a 1-man team that isn’t really a threat in the West. For the sake of making the Warriors put effort for the first round, one hopes that the Thunder don’t make the playoffs. For the purposes of inspiring the Pelicans to play hard (and win), the Thunder need to win this game.