Final day of NBA season will decide some seeds, matchups
There will be final-night intrigue in the NBA.
The two remaining playoff berths will be decided, along with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the site for Game 1 of the series that starts this weekend between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.
Most individual stat races are already sewn up, barring something that would be most improbable. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook will become the 16th player in NBA history to win two scoring titles, Houston’s James Harden will lead the league in assists for the first time and Miami’s Hassan Whiteside should be able to wrap up his first rebounding crown.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry is a lock to lead the league in 3-pointers made for the fifth straight year, and his Warriors teammate Klay Thompson will finish second in that category for the fourth consecutive season.
TOP OF THE EAST
Boston controls the race for the top seed in the East playoffs.
The Celtics will be No. 1 in the East if they beat Milwaukee, or if Cleveland loses to Toronto. The Cavaliers won’t have LeBron James on Wednesday night, and are 0-7 this season when he doesn’t play.
Depending on perspective, James will either be resting, recovering or revving for the start of the playoffs. It’s part of his usual playoff preparedness, since he hasn’t appeared in a regular-season finale in a decade.
Cleveland can still be No. 1 with a win and a Boston loss.
BOTTOM OF THE EAST
Dwyane Wade helped Miami win three championships.
Now, he might help keep the Heat out of the playoffs.
It’s three teams – Indiana, Chicago and Miami – for the last two spots in the East field. Indiana (which plays Atlanta) and Chicago (which plays Brooklyn) control their destinies.
If the Pacers win, they’re in. If the Bulls win, they’re in. If either loses, the door opens for Miami.
The Heat would reach the playoffs with a win over Washington, and a loss by either Indiana or Chicago.
The 1-8 and 2-7 matchups in the East cannot be finalized until Wednesday. But the other two first-round series are now set, after Atlanta wrapped up the No. 5 seed with a win over Charlotte on Tuesday night.
No. 3 Toronto plays No. 6 Milwaukee in the first round. No. 4 Washington gets the fifth-seeded Hawks.
Indiana controls its destiny for No. 7. There are scenarios where the Heat, Bulls and Pacers all could be No. 7 or No. 8.
However it shakes out, this much is certain: LeBron James will go up against longtime postseason nemesis Indiana, or his close friend Dwyane Wade, or his former Heat team in the opening round.
And that will be made-for-TV stuff.
Utah hasn’t started the playoffs at home since 2001.
The Jazz could change that this year, if they beat San Antonio on Wednesday while the Clippers lose at home to Sacramento. That’s the only scenario where the Jazz would be seeded No. 4 in the Western Conference playoffs.
Otherwise, the Clippers will get home-court for the first-round series against Utah.
All the other seeds and matchups out West for the first round are set: No. 1 Golden State vs. No. 8 Portland, No. 2 San Antonio vs. No. 7 Memphis, and No. 3 Houston vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City.