The last day of the NBA regular season is Sunday. Expect chaos and lots of it.

The Associated Press - April 14, 2024 10:53 am

By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer

(AP) — Maybe it’s parity. Maybe it’s chaos.

Either way, the final day of the NBA’s regular season should be wild.

Oklahoma City, Minnesota, and Denver all have a shot at No. 1 in the Western Conference. Every seed from No. 2 to No. 8 is up for grabs in the Eastern Conference. Sunday’s slate, with all 30 teams playing, will see nine seeds get decided, three first-round playoff matchups determined. and three play-in matchups set as well.

“There’s so many possibilities and different things that can happen that just you kind of have to lock in to your team or you’ll drive yourself crazy watching other games and wishing and hoping,” Phoenix guard Devin Booker said. “So, either way, you’re going to match up with somebody and we have to be ready to do that.”

A primer for the final day:

WHAT WE KNOW
Boston is No. 1 in the East and has home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers are No. 4 in the West and will open the playoffs against No. 5 Dallas. No. 9 Chicago plays host to No. 10 Atlanta in an East play-in elimination game on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Playing their final games of the season on Sunday: Brooklyn, Toronto, Charlotte, Washington, Detroit, Houston, Utah, Memphis, San Antonio, and Portland.

Everything else is still up in the air.

WEST 1 THROUGH 3
Contenders: Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Denver.

Schedule: Phoenix at Minnesota, Denver at Memphis, Dallas at Oklahoma City.

Outlook: This is the first time that three teams all have the same record (56-25) and all have a shot at the No. 1 seed in a conference going into the final day.

The only scenario where Denver gets the No. 1 seed is a win for themselves and losses by both the Timberwolves and Thunder.

Minnesota gets the No. 1 seed with a win, and a loss by either the Nuggets or Thunder.

Oklahoma City gets the No. 1 seed if all three teams win, if all three teams lose, or with a win and a Timberwolves loss.

Quotable: “The big exponential jumps come from small incremental steps.” — Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault, after the Thunder won on Friday. OKC improved its win total by 16 last year and has done that again this season.

EAST 2 THROUGH 4
Contenders: Milwaukee, New York, Cleveland.

Schedule: Milwaukee at Orlando, Chicago at New York, Charlotte at Cleveland.

Outlook: For the Bucks, it’s simple. Win at Orlando, and Milwaukee is the No. 2 seed. The Bucks would also finish second with a loss, as long as the Bulls and Hornets also both win.

New York can get to No. 2 with a win, and a Milwaukee loss. Cleveland’s only path to No. 2 is a win, and losses by Milwaukee and New York.

Quotable: “A scouting nightmare. We know we’ll be between 2 and 4. That’s a certainty. Other than that, we don’t know anything. … The good news is, no matter what, we’ll be at home for Game 1.” — Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers.

EAST 5 THROUGH 8
Contenders: Orlando, Indiana, Philadelphia, Miami.

Schedule: Milwaukee at Orlando, Atlanta at Indiana, Brooklyn at Philadelphia, Toronto at Miami.

Outlook: Truly bonkers. All four teams have a shot at finishing fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. Obviously, two will miss the play-in tournament entirely and go straight to the playoffs.

Orlando is playoff-bound with a win. The Magic would be No. 5 with a win and a Pacers win, or with a win and wins by both the Hawks and Nets, or if all four contending teams lose.

Indiana is also playoff-bound with a win. The Pacers get to No. 5 with a win and a Magic loss.

Philadelphia’s only path to No. 5 is to win and for Indiana to lose.

And reigning East champion Miami (which got to the NBA Finals out of the play-in last year) has one path to No. 5 — win and see the other three teams lose. The Heat could get to No. 6 with a win, a Magic loss, and the 76ers and Pacers combining to go 1-1 on Sunday.

Quotable: “We control our own destiny still.” — Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley, after the Magic lost to Philadelphia on Friday night.

WEST 6 AND 7
Contenders: New Orleans, Phoenix.

Schedule: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans, Phoenix at Minnesota.

Outlook: Phoenix must win, and the Pelicans must lose for the Suns to get to No. 6. Anything else, Phoenix is No. 7 and play-in bound, New Orleans is No. 6 and playoff-bound.

Quotable: “Go Lakers.” — Phoenix guard Devin Booker.

WEST 8 THROUGH 10
Contenders: Sacramento, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State.

Schedule: Portland at Sacramento, Lakers at New Orleans, Utah at Golden State.

Outlook: If the Lakers win, they’re the No. 8 seed. The Lakers could lose and still be No. 8 if both the Kings and Warriors lose.

Golden State’s lone path to No. 8 is a win plus wins by Portland and Utah. The Warriors can get to No. 9 and host one play-in game with a win and a loss by either the Lakers or Kings.

Sacramento gets to No. 8 with a win and a Lakers loss.

Quotable: “Of course, seeds matter. But wherever you fall, you take that challenge.” — Lakers forward LeBron James.

RACE TO THE BOTTOM
No matter what happens on Sunday, Washington and Detroit will both finish with winning percentages under .200.

This is the fifth season in NBA history where two teams have been that bad, the first since New Jersey and Minnesota pulled off the ignominious feat in 2009-10. It also happened in 1998-99 (Vancouver and the Clippers), 1997-98 (Denver and Toronto) and 1996-97 (Vancouver and Boston).

DRAFT IMPLICATIONS
Detroit, Washington, and the third-worst team in the league will have the best chance of winning next month’s draft lottery at 14% apiece. If Charlotte loses in Cleveland, the Hornets are assured of having a 14% chance as well.

A loss doesn’t guarantee the No. 1 pick for the Hornets, of course — but a win raises the chances that they could emerge from the lottery outside the top three and possibly even pick as low as No. 9.

 

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