The last day of the 2014-15 regular season has arrived. And it’s loaded with intrigue, with more than half of the games on the closing docket having some effect on the playoff picture.
Here’s just some of what will be decided Wednesday night:
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– Seven of the eight first-round playoff matchups, with the lone one decided so far pitting Cleveland against Boston in a rematch of LeBron James’ last series with the Cavaliers before he left for Miami in 2010.
– Seeds for eight of the 16 postseason-bound teams.
– The fates of New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn and Indiana. Half of that group gets in, half goes home.
– The scoring title, though Russell Westbrook seems far enough ahead of James Harden to keep that in Oklahoma City and succeeding teammate Kevin Durant as the league’s points king. Assuming both play, Harden would have to outscore Westbrook by about 35 points to pass him in the race. If Westbrook wins, it’ll be the first time since 1952 and 1953 that one team had two different players win the scoring title in consecutive years.
Of course, that will be no more than an ancillary thought for the Thunder. Like plenty of other teams, they might find themselves doing some serious scoreboard-watching on Wednesday.
Some storylines for closing night:
SEEDS STILL NOT SET: In the East, Atlanta (1), Cleveland (2), Washington (5), Milwaukee (6) and Boston (7) have their playoff seeds locked up. In the West, Golden State (1), Portland (4, but without home-court in the first round) and Dallas (7) know their bracket spots.
Everything else, still up for grabs.
WEST CLUTTER: The defending champion San Antonio Spurs start the night No. 3 in the West, and could rise to No. 2.
They could also fall all the way to No. 6.
It’s a mess in the West.
There’s obvious incentive for San Antonio to win at New Orleans. A Spurs win, they’re the No. 2 seed. And they’ll be rooting for the Spurs in Oklahoma City, too.
The only way Oklahoma City – a team with so much talent and so much bad luck on injury fronts this season – will reach the playoffs is if the Spurs beat New Orleans and the Thunder win at Minnesota.
But don’t expect Westbrook to wear silver and black.
”I ain’t got to root for nobody,” Westbrook said. ”Ain’t no Spurs fan.”
Houston could get the No. 2 seed if it beats Utah and the Spurs lose. The Rockets could also finish fifth or sixth.
The Los Angeles Clippers – whose season is over at 56-26, and who start the night in the No. 2 spot – will have no worse than the No. 3 seed. If the Spurs and Rockets both lose, the Clippers stay at No. 2.
Memphis will be No. 5 or No. 6, and either New Orleans or Oklahoma City will be No. 8. If the Pelicans win or the Thunder lose, New Orleans is in, Oklahoma City out.
EAST PICTURE: It’s a little clearer in the East.
Top-seeded Atlanta will play either Indiana or Brooklyn. If the Pacers beat Memphis, they’re the 8 seed. If the Pacers lose and Brooklyn wins, the Nets get the last spot.
Cleveland gets Boston. That’s done.
Chicago would be the No. 3 seed if it beats Atlanta, or No. 4 if it loses and Toronto tops Charlotte.
BIG 3: There’s history for the Spurs to play for on Wednesday as well.
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won 540 games together with the Boston Celtics. So far, the Spurs’ Big 3 – Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker – have combined to win 539 regular-season contests together.
Those are the only trios in NBA history to top the 500-win-together mark.
LAKER HISTORY: Yes, even the Los Angeles Lakers – who haven’t spent a single day over the .500 mark since November 2013 – have something compelling going on closing night.
They could avoid being the worst Laker team ever.
If they beat Sacramento, they would finish 22-60 and with a winning percentage of .268. If they lose, they finish 21-61, winning percentage there of .256.
For now, the worst record in franchise history comes from the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers, who went 19-53 (.264).