Stakes for Each Team on the Final Day of the NBA Regular Season
It all comes down to this! Most of the NBA will be playing their final game of the season tonight, but there’s still much to be decided. The Western Conference is still looking for its final playoff team, and playoff seeding and draft positioning is still yet to be determined for multiple organizations.
Let’s dive in and see what’s at stake on the final night of the regular season.
New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers (-15) | O/U: 221
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Knicks: The Knicks have done a masterful job of tanking since losing Kristaps Porzingis to injury, posting a record of just 5-21. Unfortunately, they haven’t made up much ground in the lottery standings. They’re tied with the Nets for the eighth-worst record in the NBA, but they could force their way into a tie for seventh if they lose and the Bulls win. Tying for seventh would result in approximately a 1.5% increase in the odds of landing the No. 1 pick, and every advantage matters for a team as devoid of talent as the Knicks.
What’s at stake for the Cavs: It’s a pretty simple formula for the Cavs. If they win and the 76ers lose to the Bucks, they’ll be the 3-seed. Any other combination and they’ll be the No. 4. While playoff seeding probably doesn’t matter much for LeBron and the Cavs – they’ll likely be the Eastern Conference favorites regardless of whom they’re playing – their path seems easier from the 3-seed given the Celtics’ injuries. Cavs fans will also be monitoring the situation in Boston since they own the Nets’ first-round pick this year. Like the Knicks, they could finish as high as tied for seventh or as low as ninth, which is a difference of about 2.6% in terms of odds for the No. 1 pick.
Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics (-1) | O/U: 207.5
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Nets: The Nets don’t own their first-round pick this year, so they’re one of the few teams with nothing to play for on today’s slate. That said, they could still affect the draft odds for the Knicks and Bulls, so fans of both teams should be rooting for them to beat the Celtics. They’re 5-5 over their past 10 games, which is the best mark by far among the teams at the bottom of the standings.
What’s at stake for the Celtics: The Celtics are locked in as the 2-seed in the East, so they really have nothing to play for on the last day of the regular season. Their biggest questions will come in the playoffs, where they’ll have to prove they can survive without star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat (-4.5) | O/U: 203
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Raptors: The Raps are locked in as the top seed in the East. The only thing left for them to do is prove that they can compete with LeBron in the playoffs after being embarrassed last season.
What’s at stake for the Heat: The Heat need a win against the Raptors if they want any chance of moving up to the 6-seed. If they can get that done, all they need is a Bucks loss to the 76ers, who will definitely be playing hard Wednesday. If the Heat can’t get past the Raptors, they’ll be looking at either the seventh or eighth seed, depending on what happens between the Wizards and Magic. If Washington beats Orlando, the Heat will be the 8-seed; if Washington loses, the Heat will be the 7-seed.
Washington Wizards (-5) at Orlando Magic | O/U: 204.5
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Wizards: The Wizards are sitting at No. 8 in the East, but there are a couple of scenarios in which they move up. They obviously need to beat the Magic to have any chance for that to happen, along with help from the teams above them. If they win and both the Heat and Bucks lose, they’ll move up to the 6-seed. If they win and one of those teams loses, they’ll move up to the 7-seed ahead of the losing team. If all three teams win, the Wizards will be stuck in the eighth spot.
What’s at stake for the Magic: The Magic are locked in a tight battle for the third-worst record in the league. They’re trying to tie the Hawks and Mavericks (whose seasons are complete) at 24-58, and the difference between the third-best odds and fifth-best odds for the No. 1 pick is 6.8%.
Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers (-7.5) | O/U: 219.5
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Bucks: Milwaukee controls its own destiny for the 6-seed in the East. If the Bucks can beat the 76ers, they’ll face LeBron and the Cavs in the first round. They can still secure the 6-seed with a loss if the Wizards and Heat lose as well, but they can fall all the way to the 8-seed if both of those teams win. Further complicating things is their draft pick: They’ll likely keep it with a victory, as it conveys to Phoenix if it falls between 11-16. Giannis Antetokounmpo is reportedly now playing, so it looks like they’re indeed going to go after the 6-seed and LeBron.
What’s at stake for the 76ers: This is the team that no one wants to see in the playoffs right now. The 76ers have won 15 straight games, and a good chunk have come with Joel Embiid sidelined with an eye injury. They’ve done enough over the past month that they control their own destiny for the 3-seed in the East. Win and it’s theirs. And given that the banged-up Celtics sit at the 2-seed, the 76ers should want to win.
Detroit Pistons (-3) at Chicago Bulls | O/U: 211.5
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Pistons: The Pistons moved all their chips into the middle of the table when they acquired Blake Griffin at the deadline, but they’re going to come up short. There will likely be some changes made to this team in the offseason, but they’ve got nothing at stake on this final day.
What’s at stake for the Bulls: They sit at 27 wins, which puts them just one win ahead of the Knicks and Nets and one game behind the Kings in the lottery standings. They could finish as high as tied for sixth or in a three-way tie for seventh in their worst-case scenario. Ties are broken by a random drawing on the NBA Draft lottery night.
Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves (-3) | O/U: 213.5
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Nuggets: This is essentially a playoff game, with both of these teams needing a win to secure a postseason berth. The Nuggets’ ideal result is a win against the Wolves and a Grizzlies win over the Thunder, which would vault the Nuggets to the 6-seed and help them avoid the Warriors in the first round. If the Nuggets win and the Thunder beat the Grizzlies, they’ll have to settle for the 7-seed. It’s better than going home at least.
What’s at stake for the Timberwolves: Their scenarios are a little more complicated than the Nuggets’. They also need a win to secure a playoff berth, but they can finish anywhere from the 6-seed to the 8-seed:
- Wolves win, Spurs win vs. Pelicans, Grizzlies win vs. Thunder: 6-seed
- Wolves win, Spurs win vs. Pelicans, Thunder win vs. Grizzlies: 7-seed
- Wolves win, Pelicans win vs. Spurs, Grizzlies win vs. Thunder: 7-seed
- Wolves win, Pelicans win vs. Spurs, Thunder win vs. Grizzlies: 8-seed
Ultimately, the Timberwolves can only control their own fate against the Nuggets, but obviously avoiding the Rockets and Warriors in the first round would be their ideal scenario.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (-17) | O/U: 212
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Grizzlies: The Grizz have done a masterful job at tanking this season, and they’re already locked into the second-worst record in the league behind Phoenix.
What’s at stake for the Thunder: Interestingly, the Thunder cannot get the 7-seed or the 5-seed; however, there are scenarios in which they get the four, six or eight. Thankfully, things aren’t that complicated:
- Thunder win, Blazers win: 4-seed
- Thunder win, Jazz win: 6-seed
- Thunder lose: 8-seed
I don’t think they’ll want a first-round matchup against the juggernaut Rockets, so they’ll likely be motivated to get the win tonight. The rest is up to the Blazers and Jazz.
San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans (-3.5) | O/U: 211.5
8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Spurs: The Spurs are definitely in the playoffs, which marks their 21st straight year of qualifying for the postseason. That said, their seeding is very much up for grabs, as they could finish as high as fourth or as low as eighth in the West. Ultimately, if they beat the Pelicans, they can finish no lower than sixth and therefore avoid the Rockets and Warriors in the first round. If they lose, the best they can finish is seventh. It will be interesting to see how much effort Gregg Popovich asks his players to put into this contest.
What’s at stake for the Pelicans: The Pelicans’ situations are a little more cut and dried. If they win and the Jazz beat the Blazers, they’ll be the 5-seed. If they win and the Blazers beat the Jazz, they’ll fall to the six. If they lose, their seeding will depend on what happens between the Thunder and Grizzlies. They can get to the 7-seed if the Grizz pull off the upset, but they’ll fall to the 8-seed if the Thunder hold serve.
Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers (-3) | O/U: 217
10:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Lakers: The Lakers don’t have anything at stake again until the beginning of free agency, when they’ll try to persuade LeBron James to take his talents to Hollywood.
What’s at stake for the Clippers: The Clips had a great run this season, but they ultimately came up just short. They’re locked in as the best team to not make the playoffs, which will give them just a 0.5% chance of securing the top pick in the draft.
Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers (-3.5) | O/U: 201
10:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Jazz: The Jazz have been one of the best teams in the league since the All-Star break, and they’ve gone from a fringe playoff contender to controlling their own fate for the 3-seed in the West. If they lose, they fall to either the 4-seed or 5-seed depending on what happens between the Thunder and Grizzlies. If the Thunder win, they’ll be the five; if the Grizzlies win, they’ll be the four. Their first round matchup is pretty much locked in vs. OKC (assuming the Thunder win as 17-point favorites tonight): Win and they get home court in the first round; lose and it’s a possible Game 7 in OKC.
What’s at stake for the Blazers: They also control their own destiny for the 3-seed, but they have a much smaller chance of falling to the 5-seed if they lose. The only way that would happen is if Spurs beat the Pelicans and Grizzlies beat the Thunder.
Houston Rockets (-3.5) at Sacramento Kings | O/U: 203.5
10:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake for the Rockets: The Rockets have nothing left to do but sit back and get ready for the postseason. They’re locked in as the top overall seed for the playoffs.
What’s at stake for the Kings: The Kings need a loss to secure the sixth-best odds in the lottery. If they win, they can find themselves in a tie for sixth with the Bulls if Chicago loses to the Pistons. Their first-round pick in 2019 will more than likely go to the Celtics, so they need to nail their pick in 2018.