By creating the play-in tournament, the NBA hoped to add some meaning to games at the end of the season — and it worked.
All 30 teams play on the season’s final day, and 10 of the 15 games carry at least some weight for the final standings and playoff or play-in seedings. Here are the NBA standings, playoff scenarios, what to look for and which games to watch on the final day of the season.
1. Miami Heat (53-28)
2. Milwaukee Bucks (51-30)
3. Boston Celtics (50-31)
4. Philadelphia 76ers (50-31)
5. Toronto Raptors (48-33)
6. Chicago Bulls (45-36)
7. Brooklyn Nets (43-38)
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (43-38)
9. Atlanta Hawks (42-39)
10. Charlotte Hornets (42-39)
Race for 2-3-4
Bucks at Cavaliers (3:30 p.m.)
Celtics at Grizzlies (4:00 p.m.)
Pistons at 76ers (4:00 p.m.)
Miami has locked up the No. 1 seed in the East, and we know that the Raptors will finish No. 5 and the Bulls No. 6.
The Bucks can lock up the No. 2 seed with a win over the Cavaliers but are expected to sit Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, Grayson Allen, and George Hill. The Cavaliers will play everyone as this game matters a lot to them — win and they finish no lower than eighth.
A Milwaukee loss opens the door for Boston to be the No. 2 seed (and potentially face Brooklyn in the first round). If the Bucks lose and the Celtics beat the Grizzlies, Boston moves into the No. 2 seed. It is unlikely the Grizzlies play Ja Morant on the second night of a back-to-back — Saturday’s game was his first after missing nine games — but Memphis is 20-4 without him this season.
If the Celtics lose and the 76ers win, Philadelphia jumps up to the No. 3 seed, and Boston falls to No. 4 and has to face Toronto in the first round. That’s the motivation for both the 76ers and Celtics to win their games.
Pacers at Nets (3:30 p.m.)
Wizards at Hornets (3:30 p.m.)
Bucks at Cavaliers (3:30 p.m.)
Hawks at Rockets (3:30 p.m.)
Nothing is set and 16 different scenarios can play out depending on the outcomes of those four games. Here’s a look at the most likely outcomes, but if you want a complete list check out Schuyler Callihan’s work over at FanNation.
If the Nets beat the Pacers, Brooklyn holds on to the No. 7 seed.
If the Cavaliers beat the Bucks (who are sitting many key players), they can finish no lower than No. 8 and can move up to No. 7 if the Nets lose.
Both the Hornets and Hawks can move up to the top eight — Atlanta can go no higher than eighth, Charlotte can land anywhere from 7-10 — but they need to win and then need one of the teams above them to lose. In a scenario where the Nets lose and both the Cavaliers and Hornets win (and the Hawks lose), the Nets could fall all the way to No. 9.
Atlanta has the tiebreak over Charlotte and would host the first play-in round game between them. However, a Hornets win and a Hawks loss would shift that game to Charlotte (if both the Cavaliers and Nets win to hold on to the top two spots).
1. Phoenix Suns (64-17)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (56-25)
3. Golden State Warriors (52-29)
4. Dallas Mavericks (51-30)
5. Utah Jazz (48-33)
6. Denver Nuggets (48-33)
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (46-35)
8. Los Angeles Clippers (41-40)
9. New Orleans Pelicans (36-45)
10. San Antonio Spurs (34-47)
A lot more is set out West. The Suns are the No. 1 seed and the Grizzlies No. 2. Also the West play-in is set, with the first games being the Timberwolves hosting the Clippers and the Pelicans hosting the Spurs.
Race for 3-4
Spurs at Mavericks (9:30 p.m.)
Warriors at Pelicans (9:30 p.m.)
If the Warriors win, they will be the No. 3 seed. A Golden State loss coupled with a Dallas win would jump the Mavericks up to the No. 3 seed (because Dallas has the tiebreaker, winning the season series 3-1).
Race for 5-6
Lakers at Nuggets (9:30 p.m.)
Jazz at Trail Blazers (9:30 p.m.)
If the Jazz beat the Trail Blazers, Utah holds on to the No. 5 seed. Utah has the tiebreaker over Denver, having swept the season series.
Denver can jump up to fifth with a win and a Utah loss.