Playoff Chase: Seven meaningful games on final night of NBA season

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Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

We know the 16 teams going to the playoffs dance, but the NBA is going down to the wire on the final night of the regular season to set the seedings and who will play whom. These seven games can all influence where teams land in the standings.

Here’s what to look for.

Chicago vs. Charlotte: Both teams need this win. For Charlotte, its only hope of getting out of the seven seed and avoiding Miami in the first round is to beat Chicago and hope for a Washington loss to Boston (that’s not likely). The Bulls could still climb to the three seed with a win and a Toronto loss to the Knicks.

Dallas vs. Memphis: It’s very simple, winner gets the seven seed and Oklahoma City in the first round, loser gets the eighth slot San Antonio to open the playoffs. Know that the Grizzlies are motivated here, the Spurs have had their number the past few seasons so the Grizzlies really want to avoid them in the first round.

Detroit vs. Oklahoma City: If the Thunder win this game they are the No. 2 seed in the West, however if they lose and the Clippers knock off Portland the Clippers climb past them into the No. 2 slot. OKC should be motivated here because the Clippers are the likely second round matchup and you want home court against them.

Washington vs. Boston: The Wizards could land anywhere from seeds 5-7 depending on this game and others. If Washington wins they cannot be lower than the six seed — and they want to win because if they fall to the seven seed they get steamrolled by Miami in the first round. If Washington loses and Charlotte beats Chicago, then Charlotte is the six seed and Washington the seven. If Washington wins and Brooklyn falls to Cleveland than the Wizards are the five seed and the Nets fall to six.

Brooklyn vs. Cleveland: If the Nets win they are the five seed (likely facing Chicago). A Nets loss combined with a Wizards win drops the Nets to the six seed (likely facing the Raptors, providing they win over the Knicks). There is a school of thought the Nets would like to line themselves up with the Raptors in the first round, but hitting that moving target will not be easy (plus the Raptors are no pushovers).

Toronto vs. New York: If the Raptors win they are the three seed, it’s that simple. A Raptors loss combined with a Bulls win over the Bobcats drops the Wizards to the four seed. Either way the Raptors are in, which is a nice reward for long suffering Toronto fans.

Los Angeles Clippers at Portland: The Clippers can move up to the two seed with a win combined with a Thunder loss to the Pistons. Not likely, but the Clippers would love for it to happen so they have home court in a potential second round matchup with the Thunder.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.