Just as David Stern planned (or at least wished for his final regular season finale as commissioner) the battle for playoff seedings — and maybe even a playoff spot — will come down to the final games on the final day of the regular season.
Which is tonight.
It’s going to make for some dramatic television.
There’s a lot to follow, especially in the Western Conference where five of the eight playoff spots could shift Wednesday night, so let’s break it all down. Stay with me here, this isn’t simple.
• Except for the Lakers it is simple — win and you’re in. More than that, win over the Rockets and you leapfrog them in the standings to the seven seed (the two teams would be tied but the Lakers have the tiebreaker), meaning the Lakers get the more desirable matchup with the Spurs in the first round and the Rockets can try to beat the Thunder.
• But the Rockets have something to play for Wednesday, too — if they win and the Golden State Warriors lose to Portland then the Rockets would jump up to the six seed and Golden State would be the seven. Plus, at the very least the Rockets want the seven and not the eight seed.
• Also if the Rockets beat the Lakers, the Jazz can knock the Lakers out of the eight seed if the Jazz can beat the Memphis Grizzlies on the road.
• But the Grizzlies are playing in hopes they can get home court — Memphis will be the five seed in the West but if they beat the Jazz and the Clippers fall to Sacramento in what could be the Kings final game ever in that city (so you know the fans will be out and loud) then the Grizzlies will have home court against the Clippers in the first round. (The Clippers cannot fall any lower than the four seed because they won the Pacific Division but if the five seed Grizzlies have the better record then the Grizzlies get home court. Don’t ask me why, those are just the rules.)
• The Clippers will be motivated because if they win and the Denver Nuggets lose then the Clippers jump up to the three seed. Even if Denver wins, the Clippers need to win to keep home court in the first round.
• The Denver Nuggets also have it pretty simple — win at home against the lowly Suns and they are the three seed. If Denver loses they need the Clippers to lose to get the three seed.
• Houston at the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento, and Golden State at Portland all tip off at 10:30 ET tonight, so this is not all going to get decided until late in the night.
• One race is still alive in the Eastern Conference — the battle for the five/six seed between Atlanta and Chicago. After the Hawks loss on Tuesday they are tied but the Bulls have the tiebreaker (they won the season series). So if Chicago beats the Wizards at home, they get the five seed and face Brooklyn in the first round, Atlanta would be sixth and face Indiana. But if the Bulls lose and the Hawks can beat a Knicks team likely to be resting a lot of guys, then the Hawks are the five seed.
The teams watching that game with the most interest? The Nets and Pacers. Both would much rather face the Hawks than the scrappy, physical, defensive-minded Bulls in the first round.