At long last, we have reached the end of the NBA regular season.
While there are legitimate gripes about the length of the season and its effects on players and fans, at least the NBA is getting what it wants — the finale will not be without drama.
With the NBA playoffs just four days away, on the final night of the season, six playoff spots will be decided.
The East’s top two seeds will be decided, as will the final two spots in the East, and the West’s fourth and fifth seeds.
Here are the scenarios:
Miami’s magical run appears to be over.
The Miami Heat have made the NBA’s most stunning comeback, clawing back from an 11-30 record to go 29-11 since January 15. Erik Spoelstra has entered himself firmly in the Coach of the Year race for turning a ramshackle squad without a bonafide star (let alone a sure-fire All-NBA team candidate) and making them play a winning, aggressive, defensive style of basketball.
Miami beat the LeBron James-less Cavaliers on Monday to stay tied with the Chicago Bulls for the eighth seed, needing to win their final game Wednesday, along with a Bulls or Indiana Pacers loss to make the playoffs. That seems unlikely.
The Bulls, currently in the eighth place, will play the Brooklyn Nets, who plan on resting three starters and six players overall, on Wednesday. The Pacers, currently in seventh place, will play the Atlanta Hawks, who are locked into the fifth seed, on Wednesday. If Atlanta rests its players, the Pacers also seem like a favourite to win.
If both the Pacers and Bulls win, they will take the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively. If Miami wins, and either the Pacers or Bulls lose, Miami will be in, along with the team that won.
Is Cleveland punting the first seed?
The Cavaliers are currently a game behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the East after stumbling down the stretch of the season.
The Cavs play the Raptors on Wednesday, and the Celtics play the Bucks. LeBron is reportedly resting again for the season finale, and the Bucks reportedly plan to rest many of their players. The Cavs need a win and a Celtics loss to take back the first seed. The Celtics need only to win to take the first seed.
It’s been questioned how much the Cavs truly want first place, given how they have rested some of their biggest players down the stretch. Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue has said the Cavs value rest and health over the No. 1 seed. And who could blame them? The Cavs won three in a row against the Warriors in the Finals last season, with two of the wins coming in Oakland. And the Cavs may feel confident in their chances against the Celtics on the road after last week’s beatdown.
The Jazz and Clippers will jostle for the fourth seed and home-court.
The Clippers and Jazz will play each other in the first round of the playoffs. The only thing to be decided is which team will have home-court advantage.
The Clippers play the Kings on Wednesday, and the Jazz play the Spurs. If the Clippers win, they will get fourth place and home-court in the first round. If the Jazz win and the Clippers lose, they will get fourth place and home-court.
And the winner of that series will get to play the Warriors in the next round.
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