As the NBA season winds down, so many races are undecided


With just over a week left in the NBA regular season, there’s still a ton to be decided before the playoff field is set.

In the East, four spots remain unclaimed. In the West, two are up for grabs. And while some seedings look wrapped up, none are officially clinched.

Want drama? It’s not hard to find.

“To be in competition like this, it’s a privilege,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Monday was a most-needed day for most of the NBA to catch its breath. The league always tries to avoid scheduling games on the day of the NCAA men’s championship game and would have done so this year if a Portland-Minnesota game didn’t have to be postponed because of floor conditions earlier this season.

Things pick up in earnest again Tuesday.

So to get ready for the final nine days of the season, here’s a primer on playoff chases.


Boston (50-27)

Cleveland (49-27)

The Celtics host the Cavaliers on Wednesday, with the winner assured of leaving that night with the No. 1 spot in the East standings. If Cleveland wins, it essentially becomes two victories since the defending champions will also own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Boston. … LeBron James got his first ring in 2012 as a No. 2 seed in the East with Miami, so it’s not as if he’ll be deterred even if the Cavs don’t get that top spot. … Boston is trending up, going 9-2 in its past 11 games. The Cavs have nine wins in their past 20 games.


Golden State (63-14)

San Antonio (59-17)

The Warriors have won 11 straight, might get Kevin Durant back this weekend and face only one playoff-bound team in the final five games. It’s only a matter of time before Golden State wraps up the No. 1 seed in the West and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. … San Antonio can’t be caught for No. 2, and coach Gregg Popovich has two full weeks to get his players rested and his rotation ready.


Toronto (47-30)

Washington (46-31)

Toronto took the season series 2-1, so it’s like the Raptors have a two-game lead with five left. But the Raptors play four of their last five on the road, and still don’t have Kyle Lowry back from wrist surgery. … Washington still has to play Miami twice, Detroit and Charlotte, teams very desperate right now to get in. … Both the Raptors and Wizards have wrapped up home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

WEST NO. 3-4-5

Houston (52-25)

Utah (47-30)

Los Angeles Clippers (47-31)

The Rockets’ magic number for clinching the No. 3 spot is 1, and the only mystery is if MVP candidate James Harden will get some rest. … The Jazz are in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and now have to hold off the Clippers in order to host Game 1 of the postseason for the first time since 2001, when John Stockton and Karl Malone were still starters in Utah. … The Clippers won the season series against Utah 3-1, big if tiebreakers are needed.


Milwaukee (40-37)

Atlanta (39-38)

Milwaukee’s schedule is brutal with four road games in the final five, including ones at Oklahoma City, Indiana and Boston – teams all playing for something. … Atlanta took the season series 3-0, but the Hawks have a three-game, four-day stretch this week that goes Boston, at Cleveland, Cleveland.


Oklahoma City (43-33)

Memphis (42-35)

Portland (38-39)

Denver (36-40)

New Orleans (33-44)

The Thunder are in, the Grizzlies are on the brink of getting in, and the No. 6 seed might come down to the winner of the Oklahoma City at Memphis game on Wednesday. … Portland’s six-game winning streak was snapped in Minnesota on Monday, though the Trail Blazers still own the No. 8 spot for now. … Denver still has to go to Houston, plus plays Oklahoma City twice in the final three games. … New Orleans is alive only in the mathematical sense.


Chicago (38-39)

Miami (37-40)

Indiana (37-40)

Charlotte (36-41)

Detroit (35-42)

The Bulls won’t play another playoff team until the playoffs, if they get in. Chicago’s final five games are at New York, at Philadelphia, at Brooklyn, then home for Orlando and home for Brooklyn again. … Miami goes to Charlotte on Wednesday, in an enormous game for both teams. … Indiana’s next two games are against playoff-bound Toronto and Milwaukee, and the Pacers go to Orlando on Saturday to face former coach Frank Vogel. … All five of Charlotte’s remaining opponents are playoff-bound or hoping. … Detroit needs a miracle.


New York, Philadelphia, Orlando, Brooklyn, Dallas, Minnesota, Sacramento, the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix have been eliminated.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.


Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury


In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.

Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.