The NBA will get what it wants – the drama of ending the regular season.
All 30 teams will play their 82nd game of the season on Sunday, with four games — New Orleans at Minnesota, Utah at Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State at Portland and Los Angeles Clippers in Phoenix — set to decide how the Western Conference playoffs are played. We will look at the play arc.
There are 16 possible seeding scenarios, based on the results of those four games. And they’ll all start at 3:30 p.m. ET, with no games scheduled for later, meaning it’s likely the last shot of the regular season that fills the bracket.
For the champion NBA Warriors and Clippers, the math is easy: win on Sunday, they’re in the playoffs and about to get a week off to prepare for first-round games against Sacramento or Phoenix. Lose Sunday, and the play contest – which starts on Tuesday – may be the dreaded consolation prize.
“It’s the only thing we can control,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “There are other games that can be considered, but it doesn’t matter to us as long as we win. That’s a great situation to do about it.”
That much of the West is settled: Denver is the top seed, Memphis is second, Sacramento is third, Phoenix is fourth, and Oklahoma City will be No. 10 in the tournament.
The rest goes to the wire.
It could be the fifth, sixth, or seventh clippers. Warriors could be the fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth. The Lakers could be sixth, seventh, or eighth. The Timberwolves could be seventh, eighth, or ninth—and the Pelicans have, in a way, covered all the bases. New Orleans could be fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth in the West when the final whistle blows on Sunday.
“We have one more game to handle our business,” Pelicans coach Willie Green told his team Friday night.
There are some very simple possibilities for Sunday:
– The loser of the New Orleans-Minnesota game will be the No. 9 seed and host Oklahoma City in the elimination game on Wednesday.
– The Clippers are the No. 5 seed with a win and will face the Suns in the first round, after also seeing them in Sunday’s Final.
– New Orleans gets the No. 5 seed if it wins, plus Phoenix and Portland win.
– The Lakers will be the No. 8 seed and on the road to a game on Tuesday if they lose to Utah. They’ll be No. 6 or No. 7 with a win, unless the Pelicans, Warriors, and Suns also win. This scenario would leave the Lakers No. 8.
– There’s a chance the Clippers-Lakers game will happen on Tuesday night. New Orleans and Phoenix will both have to win as part of the formula, and then there will be Lakers Warriors, Jazz Warriors and Jazz Blazers winning as well.
The Warriors are a No. 5 seed (at Phoenix) or a No. 6 seed (at Sacramento in a 90-mile matchup) with a win. If the Warriors and Clippers both win, Golden State is the No. 6 seed. Otherwise, the Warriors win as the No. 5 seed.
“Whichever team we’re on, I think we’ll be ready,” said Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo.
The Eastern Conference bracket is set, regardless of Sunday’s results. No. 1 Milwaukee, No. 2 Boston, No. 3 Philadelphia, No. 4 Cleveland, No. 5 New York and No. 6 Brooklyn have closed playoff berths. No. 7 seed Miami takes on No. 8 seed Atlanta in game play Tuesday, while No. 9 seed Toronto plays against No. 10 Chicago in an elimination game Wednesday, and the loser Heathawks face the winner of the Raptors Bulls on Friday.
The winner of the Heat-Hawks will play Boston in the first round. The winner of Friday’s game will play Milwaukee in the first round.
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid would be the scoring champion for the second year in a row, averaging 33.1 points per game. His closest pursuers – Luka Doncic of Dallas (32.4) and Damian Lillard of Portland (32.2) – have finished for the season, and Embiid will not play Sunday in a meaningless final for Philadelphia.
Doncic and Lillard both did something this season that only one other player has managed in the past 59 seasons combined.
Prior to this season, only two players had scored at least 32 points per game and had not won a scoring title. Allen Iverson (33.0) was second to Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (35.4) in 2005-06, and Elgin Baylor (who averaged 34.0 points in 1962-63, 38.3 in 1961-62 and 34.8 in 1960-61) Another player on that list.
Baylor lost the scoring race in all three of those seasons to Wilt Chamberlain.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba And https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”