What’s at stake for the NBA playoff race and draft lottery on the final day of the NBA regular season?
With wins by the Nets, Magic and Pistons, the field is set in the Eastern Conference. The final three games of the regular season are underway to decide the seeding in the West.
The tank race has heated up, especially with traded and protected picks still very much up in the air.
Here are the games to follow, what they mean and how ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) projects it all to finish.
East playoff race
What happened: The Nets overcame Dwyane Wade‘s career-ending triple-double to improve to 42-40, earning the No. 6 seed and a matchup with the 76ers (No. 3). The Nets split the regular season series with their Atlantic Division rival.
Joe Harris is out for Brooklyn tonight. DeMarre Carroll is also out tonight. Kenny Atkinson says everyone else is healthy, and both of them will be ready for the start of the playoffs this weekend.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 10, 2019
What happened: The Magic clinched the No. 7 seed since the Nets won, setting up a quarterfinals matchup with Toronto; Orlando and Toronto split the regular season series.
The Charlotte Hornets have won four straight and eight of their last 11 games to get in position to make the playoffs, but need a win tonight over Orlando and a Detroit loss to the New York Knicks to slip in as the eighth seed. “We just have not given in,’’ Hornets coach James Borrego said prior to the regular season-finale at the Spectrum Center. “We could have easily given in 12, 15 games ago. A lot of people wrote us off. We just haven’t given in. The resiliency is there. The toughness is there.’’
What happened: The Pistons clinched the last available playoff spot with a win despite the absence of All-Star Blake Griffin.
Blake Griffin will not play on Wednesday against the Knicks, Dwane Casey says.
Detroit is holding New York to 39 percent shooting in the first half – including 3-for-13 from beyond the arc – and leads by 24. Barring a major collapse in the second half, the Pistons will secure a playoff berth and eliminate Charlotte from the playoffs.
(1) Bucks vs. (8) Pistons
(2) Raptors vs. (7) Magic
(3) 76ers vs. (6) Nets
(4) Celtics vs. (5) Pacers
West playoff race
The eight Western Conference playoff teams have been locked in for weeks, but the seeding went down to the wire.
What happened: The Thunder clinched the No. 6 seed by sweeping the Bucks, despite the absence of All-Star Paul George.
Paul George is inactive for tonight’s game against the Bucks, per team.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) April 10, 2019
Dirk is in tears after a spectacular tribute from the Spurs during the starting lineup intros: pic.twitter.com/cY3UHNH0Km
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 11, 2019
The Spurs honored Dirk Nowitzki with a pregame tribute video that caused the retiring legend to cry, but the regular-season finale is serious business for San Antonio. Led by Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge’s 14 points, the Spurs have a 30-16 lead over the Mavericks after a quarter.
What happened: The Denver Nuggets clinched the No. 2 seed with a win, and will host the San Antonio Spurs this weekend. The two teams split the regular season series.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 11, 2019
What happened: The LA Clippers will finish No. 8 since the Spurs and Thunder both won, setting up a quarterfinals matchup with Golden State. The Warriors are 17-3 against the Clippers since hiring Steve Kerr as head coach in 2014.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder on Western Conference playoff matchups being decided on the final night of the regular season: “To me, it’s a reflection of how good a lot of teams are that are in our conference. Trying to figure it all out is hard. We’ve got like 10 pages of spreadsheets that have been reduced to one page. You try to figure it out and what you realize is that most of it, you can’t control anyways. You do what you can do to get ready.”
Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler is calling his final regular-season game tonight after 40 seasons with the team. Before the game, Lawler cut a cake in the press room with his likeness on it. Said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, “The best part of this for Ralph is we did make the playoffs and now Ralph’s career – I think he had vacations planned for [Thursday], but now he has to stick around and we love it.”
What happened: A Denver win combined with a Portland win dropped Houston to No. 4, with the Trail Blazers clinching No. 3. Portland was down 28, sat all of their starters, and used only six players. They still won, and will now host the Oklahoma City Thunder this weekend. The Trail Blazers were swept by the Thunder this season.
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 11, 2019
(1) Warriors vs. (8) Clippers
(2) Nuggets vs. (7) Spurs
(3) Blazers vs. (6) Thunder
(4) Rockets vs. (5) Jazz
Draft odds at stake
The tweaked lottery system hasn’t eradicated the tank race down the stretch. There are precious pingpong ball combinations up for grabs that will affect traded picks and odds to get one of the coveted top three selections (bringing a chance to select Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or RJ Barrett).
The New York Knicks have secured the worst record. The Knicks will have the same 14 percent odds of landing the No. 1 pick as the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, but New York is guaranteed to stay in the top five.
The Suns and Cavaliers finish the season tied for the second-worst record. The NBA will break all draft ties with a random drawing Friday. The tied teams will receive the average of the total number of combinations for those tied positions, with the winner of the draw getting any extra combinations if there’s an odd number to split.
The Suns and Cavs will have the same odds for the actual lottery draw, but Friday’s random drawing determines the order in which the teams pick if they don’t get selected in the top four. Hypothetically, if the Suns win the random drawing and neither team wins a top-four lottery selection, then the Suns will pick No. 5, and the Cavs will pick No. 6. (Unless the Knicks also don’t land in the top four. In that scenario, the Suns get No. 6, and the Cavs get No. 7.)
The Washington Wizards (32-50) finished at No. 6, while the Memphis Grizzlies (33-49), New Orleans Pelicans (33-49) and Dallas Mavericks (33-49) are bunched up at Nos. 7-9. This is especially important because Dallas and Memphis each have a chance to lose their protected picks without some lottery luck.
The Mavericks will send their pick to the Hawks if it’s outside the top five, and the Grizzlies will send their pick to the Celtics if it’s outside the top eight. The Dallas pick remains top-five-protected next year if not conveyed; the Grizzlies’ pick drops to top-six-protected in 2020. There are rumblings that Memphis — in the middle of a rebuild — prefers to give up a first-rounder this season before the protections drop further.
Heading into Wednesday’s games, the Mavericks had a 23.1 percent chance to hold onto their pick, and the Grizzlies had a 81.7 percent chance to keep their pick.
The Wizards grabbed the No. 6 spot outright, which comes with a 9.0 percent chance for No. 1 and a 37 percent chance for a top-five pick. Falling to No. 9 outright means a 4.5 percent chance for No. 1 and a 20 percent chance for a top-five pick.
The Los Angeles Lakers were unable to improve their odds since the Timberwolves did not win, which would have created a tie at 37-45. Instead, the Timberwolves finished 36-46.