The Clippers and Suns wrapped up their last game of the regular season last night, with LA giving themselves a chance at the #2 seed and guaranteeing at least #3, but the other 28 teams finish tonight. There are subplots aplenty with almost all of the games affecting either playoff seeding or the lottery order, so I decided to run through them, game by game. The good folks at tankathon.com have some great information to confirm what I thought about the lottery odds, and the playoff tiebreakers are courtesy of SBNation.com. All times are Pacific.
4:00 PM: Hornets (33-48) at Raptors (48-33): Charlotte has been ravaged by injuries to close the year, having lost 5 straight and is locked in at the 9th worst record, giving them a 6.1% chance of jumping into the top 3 and a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery. Toronto, meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking loss last night, so they need to win AND hope for Chicago to lose in order to claim the #3 seed in the East and face Milwaukee. Otherwise, they'll open against Washington in the 4-5 series.
5:00 PM Hawks (60-21) at Bulls (49-32): Atlanta has long since wrapped up the top Eastern seed, so this only matters to them if they want to affect their side of the playoff bracket since they might view Chicago as a bigger or lesser threat in a potential second round matchup. If Chicago wins, they secure the #3 seed.
5:00 PM Spurs (55-26) at Pelicans (44-37): Arguably the most important game of the night, San Antonio can secure the #2 seed with a win by virtue of being division winners, and they could potentially drop to #6 with a loss. Memphis is the only team they lose the tiebreaker to. New Orleans would still have a chance if they lost, but if they win, they're in and don't have to worry about the OKC-'Sota result. They lose their first round pick to Houston whether it is the 14th or 18th pick.
5:00 PM Thunder (44-37) at Timberwolves (16-65): Oklahoma City needs a win AND New Orleans loss to San Antonio in order to continue onto the postseason. Washington has won enough games to lock up the #19 pick, so even if Oklahoma City makes the playoffs, they'll still keep their top-18 protected first round pick. Minnesota, on the other hand, is in pole position for the top lottery odds, and even if they win, they would only tie New York. As it stands, they have a 25% chance at #1 and are guaranteed to pick in the top 4.
5:00 PM Heat (36-45) at 76ers (18-63): This is the most fascinating game to me because Philadelphia owns Miami's top 10 protected first round pick, and the Heat are sitting at #10 right now with no chance at making the playoffs. If Miami loses, they would have a ~91% chance of staying in the top 10 after the lottery and keeping the pick. If they win and Brooklyn loses, they would split the odds and the fate of their pick would come down to a coin flip. For Philly, not only do they want to lose for that pick's sake, but they could give themselves a shot at being tied for the second best odds if New York wins a third straight game.
5:00 PM Magic (25-56) at Nets (37-44): A late three game winning streak secured the 5th spot in the lottery odds, so they're just playing the role of spoilers in this one. Brooklyn needs to win AND hope that Indiana loses for a chance to play Atlanta as the #8 seed. I doubt the Hawks are worried since they beat the Nets twice down the stretch, but they'd much rather have the Pacers make the playoffs since Atlanta can swap first round picks with Brooklyn, potentially landing them the 10th or 11th spot instead of the 15th.
5:00 PM Jazz (38-43) at Rockets (55-26): Utah's post trade deadline hot streak and Phoenix's injuries have put the Jazz in position to actually tie for the 12th worst record if they win, in which case they would split the lottery odds and flip a coin to determine who has the 12th and 13th picks. Houston will obviously try and avoid that as they can finish as high as the #2 seed with a win (and some help) or drop all the way down to #6 with a loss. If they win and San Antonio loses, the Rockets would own the tiebreaker with LA as a division winner, but in any other scenario, Houston loses the tiebreaker. The Lakers have a vested interested in this result, as well, since they own the Rockets' first round pick that could be between 25th and 28th.
5:00 PM Pistons (31-50) at Knicks (17-64): Detroit can try and tie Denver for the 7th worse record with a loss, but the Nuggets are likely to lose at Oracle to secure the 4.3% chance of the top pick. Otherwise, they would split the odds and have a coin flip to determine who is 7th or 8th. New York's back to back wins now have them in position to drop down into a tie with Philly for the third worst record if they win. They could also have their own tie for the top spot if Minnesota wins, but they'll most likely have the second best odds at 19.9% for #1 and a 55.8% chance of having a top 3 pick.
5:00 PM Trail Blazers (51-30) at Mavericks (49-32): Both teams are locked into their 4th and 7th seeds, respectively, so the biggest concern for them is being healthy for the playoffs. Portland being division winners is such a quirky flaw in the system since they're guaranteed a top 4 seed and thus, an easier matchup in theory, but they won't have home court.
5:00 PM Wizards (46-35) at Cavaliers (52-29): Washington might as well opt to rest their guys after last night's double OT loss since they're locked in at #5 and Cleveland is #2.
5:00 PM Celtics (39-42) at Bucks (41-40): Likewise, both teams have secured their playoff positions, so they just need to make sure everyone is available to play this weekend as the #7 and #6 seeds, respectively.
6:30 PM Pacers (38-43) at Grizzlies (54-27): The other game with the biggest playoff implications, Indiana is in with a win. Coming off of last night's double OT win will be tough, but they still have a chance at a reverse 1-8 rematch with Atlanta from last year if Brooklyn loses. Memphis can rise up to the #3 seed in the West with a win and San Antonio and Houston losses by virtue of owning all the tiebreakers. The fact that they're entering the night a game back likely will relegate them to the 6th seed and a matchup with the Clippers.
7:30 PM Nuggets (30-51) at Warriors (66-15): Denver can secure the 7th best lottery odds and a 15% chance at a top 3 pick with a loss, or they could risk tying with Detroit in an unlikely scenario. Golden State has long since wrapped up the top overall seed, so their only reasons for continuing to play their starters are staying in peak form, securing Stephen Curry's MVP award, and entertaining the home fans.
7:30 PM Kings (28-52) at Lakers (21-60): This last sad game for these downtrodden teams has no impact on the lottery as Sacramento and LA are locked into the 6th and 4th best odds, respectively. As it stands, LA has an ~83% chance of keeping their top 5 protected pick since two teams below them would have to jump into the top 3. If so, Philly will have to wait until next year in a weaker draft, so ironically, the Sixers could drop from the 3rd spot to the 5th yet still be happy with the lottery results if that means getting #6 from LA.