Source: USA TODAY
So it is that an NBA regular season defined by winning streaks and torn knee ligaments ends with this: eight teams jostling for position entering the final day.
The past two seasons each featured four teams still not locked into their playoff seedings, but things have been more complicated this year. And while the Los Angeles Lakers continue to draw much of the attention, they are in good company.
Here’s the breakdown of what’s at stake in Wednesday’s season finales:
• The Nos. 6, 7 and 8 seeds in the Western Conference remain unsettled. The simplest scenario features the Lakers beating the Houston Rockets, which would give the Golden State Warriors the No. 6 seed, Los Angeles the No. 7 seed and Houston the No. 8 and eliminate the Utah Jazz. Should the Jazz win at the Memphis Grizzlies (who are locked in to the No. 5 seed) and the Rockets beat the Lakers, Los Angeles will miss the playoffs.
Houston must win and have Golden State lose to the Portland Trail Blazers in order to steal the No. 6 seed. A Rockets loss also would benefit TV networks by setting up an anticipated series against the No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston star James Harden’s former team.
• The Atlanta Hawks can claim the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win and a Chicago Bulls loss. The Bulls would prefer the fifth seed because they went 1-3 vs. the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers and 3-1 vs. the No. 4 seed Brooklyn Nets. The Hawks split their season series with both.
• The Denver Nuggets need a Los Angeles Clippers loss or a home win against the Phoenix Suns to clinch the No. 3 seed in the West. That seed is perhaps the most important left for grabs because it allows a team to avoid playing the tough Grizzlies in the first round and the Thunder in the second.
The Clippers still may have something to play for, though, even if the Nuggets lose, because Memphis would get home-court advantage if it has a better record.