NBA Regular Season Finales: Reasons to Watch Every Game Tonight
A lot is on the line during the last day of the NBA regular season. Only half of the seeds have been determined for the playoffs, and the 8 seeds in both conferences are still up for grabs. The Clippers are sitting at home hoping the Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies all lose tonight as that would give them the 2 seed in the West.
So with 14 games on the docket here are some reasons you should tune into at least a part of every game tonight.
Charlotte at Toronto
Charlotte was in the playoff picture up until a couple weeks ago but have good building blocks with Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker -- even if Jefferson wasn't as effective as he was in Utah. They don't have anything to play for, but the Raptors still do.
To have a chance at the 3 seed, the Raptors have to beat the Hornets tonight, which they have only done one other time this season. A win plus a Bulls loss to the Hawks would net the Raps 3 seed and a matchup against the Bucks.
Atlanta at Chicago
You should watch this game to see Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose get some more playing time in the backcourt to prep for the playoffs, as Rose has been back for only four games. The Bulls have won four of their last six but may not have it easy with the Hawks: they lost both of their matchups earlier in the season.
The Hawks are the 1 seed, but they still have a little something on the line tonight -- their second-round opponent. By beating the Bulls tonight, they could potentially set up a second-round meeting with the Raptors, whom they lost to in three of their four matchups. So while a loss wouldn't be a great way to enter the postseason, the loss to the Bulls would guarantee a second-round matchup with them instead of the Raptors.
Portland at Dallas
Watch these two teams tonight because there is potential for this as a second-round matchup. Portland and Dallas are two of only three teams that are locked in their seeds going into the final night of the regular season at the 4 and 7 seeds, respectively. Both teams will likely rest starters, giving their benches plenty of minutes but strategies could still be pulled from this matchup.
Utah at Houston
The Jazz have won seven of their last nine games and have gone 19-9 since trading Enes Kanter. They are tied for the fourth most wins since the All-Star break. If not for a slump at the end of November into December, the Jazz may have been able to compete for the 8 seed in the West; nevertheless, this could be a great team to watch in the 2015-16 season if they add another stud in the lottery to pair for Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.
On the other hand, the Rockets need a win tonight to still have a chance to win the Southwest division. To make it easy, a win equals at least the 5 seed they currently hold. A loss though could send them to the 6 seed, which could mean a series against any of the Clippers, Spurs, or Grizzlies. Plus, James Harden just became the 18th player to hit 700 free throws in a season -- 17 more tonight would allow him to top Michael Jordan's mark from 1987-88.
Boston at Milwaukee
This is one of the few games that does not have any playoff implications. Both teams are slotted in their current seeds. However, it's still worth watching to see how Jason Kidd turned the Bucks into a premier defensive team, which has a 102.1 Defensive Rating according to our algorithms -- the third best mark in the league.
Oklahoma City at Minnesota
The Thunder will be doing everything they can to secure a win, and the Timberwolves will be doing everything they can to make sure they lose. The Thunder want the win because if the Pelicans lose to the Spurs, the Thunder make the playoffs. And a 'Wolves loss means Andrew Wiggins gets one of the best players in college basketball to play alongside of in the 2015-16 season.
San Antonio at New Orleans
Who doesn't want to see Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan go toe-to-toe one more time in the regular season, especially if this is Duncan's last regular season game? Whichever team wins gets what they want. A Pelicans win gets them the 8 seed, regardless of the Thunder game. A Spurs win grabs the 2 seed for them, putting off the Warriors until the Conference Finals and a start towards getting Duncan his sixth ring.
Orlando at Brooklyn
The Nets will be needing a win to get into the playoffs, and it shouldn't be too hard because winning or losing won't affect the Magic's overall standings in regards to the draft order. However, a win is only half of the battle for the Nets: they'll need the Pacers to lose. If nothing else, a win will put more pressure on the Pacers since their game tips off an hour and a half later than the Nets' game.
Washington at Cleveland
Like the Hawks and Bulls and the Blazers and Mavericks matchups, this could be a preview of a second-round series in the East. A Cavaliers win gives them the bragging rights for the regular season series, but with both teams locked into their seeds, one shouldn't expect to see the starters play a lot, if any, minutes in this game.
Detroit at New York
If you're a Detroit fan and like Andre Drummond in the Pistons uniform, watch this game. It could be his last as a Piston. Drummond is already being courted by his opponent tonight, the Knicks. They'll want to put on their best performance if they want to convince him to come to the Big Apple, though.
If you're a Knicks fan, you're hoping they lose this game and the Timberwolves win theirs to give you the best odds at landing the top draft pick in the draft. However, having the best odds don't always translate to getting the top picks, so maybe the Knicks are better off winning this game.
Miami at Philadelphia
Miami was recently eliminated from the playoffs after losing 10 of their last 13 games, dropping into the lottery. But because they're a lottery team and the Sixers have rights to a protected pick of theirs for this season, next season, and into 2017, this game gets really complicated. No team really wins in the draft if either of them win this game -- and it's all because of a random drawing.
Indiana at Memphis
Tuning into the later matchup of these two teams could allow you to catch up on what could be the darling of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pacers have had Paul George back for just five games, and all five have resulted in wins to put them in a position to play the Hawks in the opening round. Basically a new team with him, the Pacers won't quietly go away after clawing into the playoffs.
But Memphis won't go down quietly either. A win, plus losses by the Spurs and Rockets, makes it a three-way tie for the Southwest division, which will go to the Grizzlies thanks to conference tiebreakers. Memphis will want this win as badly as the Pacers.
Denver at Golden State
Firing Brian Shaw in favor of Melvin Hunt was probably the right move for the Nuggets because, with a win, they'd finish 11-12 under Hunt; under Shaw, the Nuggets were just 20-39 this season.
The Nuggets didn't improve a lot under Hunt, but they did turn in a better offensive performance at least. In the 23 games under Hunt, the Nuggets saw a 4.5 point Offensive Rating jump as well as 2.9% increase in Effective Field Goal percentage and 2.3% increase in True Shooting percentage. Hunt isn't assured of the coaching gig next season, but it could be worth a look for the organization based on the sample so far.
Sacramento at Los Angeles
Watch this game if you want to see a lot of offense. The Kings and Lakers field the fourth- and second-worst defenses in the league according to our algorithms, suggesting this will be a high-scoring matchup. Also watch if you don't know about Jordan Clarkson -- he's put up 20 or more points and 6 or more assists in each of the last 6 games and put up 23 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals just two days ago against the Kings.