After 71 games and nearly five months of basketball, the final day of the 2020-21 NBA regular season is here. All 30 teams will be in action in 15 different games, with 14 of those contests having potential seeding implications for the playoffs.
Here’s what’s stake on the final day of the regular season:
Starting with the Western Conference, the battle for the top-6 remains as fierce as ever. After dealing with injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis for a large part of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers (41-30) still have a chance to claim the 6th seed, as long as they get a little help on Sunday.
The Lakers will take on the New Orleans Pelicans later on Sunday night, but will also need to keep an eye on the match-up between the Denver Nuggets (47-24) and the Portland Trail Blazers (41-30). The Lakers will need to take care of their own business on the road and need the Nuggets to win in order to leap up a spot. If the Blazers win, or the Lakers lose, Damian Lillard and Portland will escape the Western Conference play-in.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers (47-24) could take over the No. 3 spot with a Nuggets loss on Sunday. Ty Lue opted to rest his stars and a few starters in a loss to the Rockets on Friday, but it’s unclear if the Clippers did so to gear up for the playoffs or to try and get the best path for a conference title run.
Apart from the drama at No. 6 and No. 7, the rest of the Western Conference play-in tournament isn’t settled just yet. The Golden State Warriors (38-33) and the Memphis Grizzlies (38-33) will meet on Sunday with the winner earning the No. 8 spot for the play-in and the loser falling to No. 9.
Finally, the No. 1 seed remains up for grabs in the West. Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns (50-21) can cap off an incredible run this season with a win on Sunday against the Spurs, but will need the Utah Jazz (51-20) to fall on the road to the Kings to claim the top seed.
Here’s the full Western Conference slate on Sunday:
Suns at Spurs, 2 p.m. ET
Grizzlies at Warriors, 3:30 p.m. ET
Lakers at Pelicans, 9 p.m. ET
Clippers at Thunder, 9 p.m. ET
Nuggets at Blazers, 9 p.m. ET
Jazz at Kings, 9 p.m. ET
In the Eastern Conference, all eyes will be on the play-in tournament seeds. The Boston Celtics (36-35) have locked up the No.7 spot and will host a play-in game next week, but the other three seeds for the new postseason format haven’t been settled heading into Sunday.
The Charlotte Hornets (33-38) currently sit at No. 8 in the East, but will need to get past the streaking Washington Wizards (33-38) to lock that spot up on Sunday. If the Wizards pick up the win, they’ll jump to No. 8, setting up a game next week against the Celtics. Although the Indiana Pacers (33-38) don’t hold the tiebreaker over either of the other organizations, a win on Sunday will give them the No. 9 seed and, more importantly, home-court advantage in the first round of play-in games.
The other intriguing games in the Eastern Conference on Sunday will involve the battle for the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. After making the postseason for the first time since the 2012-13 season, the New York Knicks (40-31) will earn home-court advantage with a win against the Celtics this afternoon. The Atlanta Hawks (40-31) will need a Knicks loss to jump up the No. 4 spot, but are locked into the 4-5 match-up, regardless of what happens on Sunday. The Miami Heat (39-32) will need to win along with a Knicks loss to move up in the standings and dodge a first round match-up with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Here’s the full Eastern Conference slate on Sunday:
Hornets at Wizards, 1 p.m. ET
Pacers at Raptors, 1 p.m. ET
Celtics at Knicks, 1 p.m. ET
Rockets at Hawks, 7 p.m. ET
Heat at Pistons, 8 p.m. ET
Bucks at Bulls, 9 p.m. ET
Here’s another look at the full Sunday slate of games, courtesy of the NBA:
The NBA standings entering the LAST DAY of the regular season!
Teams ranked 7-10 will participate in the #StateFarmPlayIn Tournament after the regular season (May 18-21) to secure the final two spots in the #NBAPlayoffs for each conference. pic.twitter.com/hrammz3hPB
— NBA (@NBA) May 16, 2021
Buckle up NBA fans, and prepare for a day filled with drama.