What’s at stake for winners – and losers – in NBA finale
NEW YORK (AP) For some teams, it’s win and they’re in.
For others, winning is the worst thing they can do Wednesday.
The last night of the NBA regular season isn’t just about playoff spots. It’s also about lottery seeds, the final chance to lock up the best odds possible for landing a high pick in what’s considered a deep draft.
The Boston Celtics, with a victory over Milwaukee, will clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve already got the top spot for next month’s lottery. The Brooklyn Nets will finish with the league’s worst record, and their 25 percent chance of winning the lottery goes to Boston as part of the ongoing payment of the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade three years ago.
But other teams have been doing their best – or worst, rather – to fall down the standings with curious lineups and questionable strategies. Commissioner Adam Silver has noticed the tanking going on and said last week it’s a serious issue for the league.
”Sometimes there are opportunities to give other players on the roster additional minutes,” he said. ”But there’s no question there’s also a certain amount of jockeying that’s going on there as teams look to go into the draft.”
One of them is Phoenix (24-58), which wrapped up the second-worst record in the league Tuesday having already shut down starters Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler a while ago. Charlotte is also finished, but the other 28 teams will be in action one more time.
And with respect to the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, who would clinch the final two playoff spots with victories, in some other games there might be more at stake for the team that loses.
A look at some games that matter:
ATLANTA AT INDIANA
BROOKLYN AT CHICAGO
The Pacers and Bulls are playoff-bound with victories and they should get some help from their opponents. The Hawks have nothing to play for after being locked into the No. 5 seed when they beat Charlotte on Tuesday, and the Nets have already announced they’ll rest Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin along with some injured players.
Miami is still alive and needs a victory over Washington along with help.
TORONTO AT CLEVELAND
The Raptors are locked into the third seed, while the Cavaliers can still be No. 1 with a victory and a Boston loss.
It that happened, Toronto could avoid the champs until the conference finals. Beat them Wednesday, and the Raptors are guaranteed to see them one round sooner.
PHILADELPHIA AT NEW YORK
One of the only things Phil Jackson has gotten right while running the Knicks is drafting Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 two years ago. New York has its first-round pick for the first time since then and currently has the sixth-worst record, but a victory and the Knicks risk drafting around No. 10 if they were to fall backward the maximum three spots in the lottery.
The 76ers are tied with Orlando for the fourth-worst record.
DETROIT AT ORLANDO
Nobody celebrates their lottery luck like the Magic, who have pingpong balls in their trophy case in recognition of wins in 1992, ’93 and 2004. But it’s easier to be lucky from No. 4 than No. 5, so another loss couldn’t hurt. Orlando looks capable of one after losing by a franchise-record 47 points to Chicago on Monday.
SAN ANTONIO AT UTAH
SACRAMENTO AT THE LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
A Clippers win or a Jazz loss and their first-round series starts in Los Angeles. Utah needs to win and have the Clippers lose to seize the No. 4 seed.