Here’s a look at some of the more important playoff implications in Friday night’s games:
LAKERS (vs. Golden State, 10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): With the battle for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference down to the final three games, the Lakers (42-37) face a Golden State team that is currently seeded sixth, just a half-game up on the Rockets … A Lakers win and a Jazz loss to the Timberwolves would put L.A. up two games with two to play … Kobe Bryant scored 47 points while playing all 48 minutes in Wednesday night’s 113-106 win in Portland … The Lakers are up 2-1 in the season series.
JAZZ (vs. Minnesota, 9:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Jazz (41-38) have lost control of the race with the Lakers for the No. 8 seed and can’t lose focus in the first of consecutive games against the wounded Timberwolves … Utah leads season series 2-0 … Utah needs to win out and hope for an L.A. loss … A short bench missing Enes Kanter, Marvin Williams and Alec Burks was costly in Wednesday night’s loss to OKC … This could be the final home game for Jazz free-agents-to-be Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
THUNDER (at Portland, 10 p.m. ET, NBA TV): Thunder (58-21) show no inclination to take their foot off the pedal in the fight for No. 1 seed in the West … Holding tie-breaker over the Spurs, they now control the race … After whipping the Warriors on Thursday night — and getting plenty of rest for the starters — OKC wraps up a back-to-back and closes out road schedule … Thunder are 3-0 against the Blazers this season, who went flat in a loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night … Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant (28.3 ppg.) says he’s OK giving up title to Carmelo Anthony.
SPURS (vs. Sacramento, 8:30 ET, League Pass): Even if the Spurs (57-21) win out, they need OKC to stumble once to reclaim the top spot in the West … But do they really care? Tony Parker is in a tug o’ war with coach Gregg Popovich over whether he’ll play … Parker sat out Wednesday’s loss at Denver with a sore neck and other assorted ailments and Pop says that championship teams must be able to win on the road anyway … Boris Diaw’s back injury puts DeJuan Blair back into the rotation and could slide Kawhi Leonard into minutes at power forward … They lead series with Kings 3-0.
CLIPPERS (at New Orleans, 8 p.m. ET, League Pass): With their first division title in franchise history wrapped up, the Clippers’ (52-26) work isn’t finished. With another 4-5 first round meeting against the Grizzlies looming, they’re one game back in the race for home-court advantage and have a key game at Memphis on Saturday night … The Hornets (27-52) have the second-worst record in the West and have lost No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis (sprained left knee, bone bruise) for the rest of the season … Clippers are 2-1 against the Hornets this season.
GRIZZLIES (at Houston, 8 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Grizzlies (53-25) don’t want to get caught looking ahead to Saturday night’s showdown with the Clippers that could decide home-court advantage in a possible 4-5 first round matchup … They have to deal with the opener of a back-to-back in a town that has been a black hole of despair. The Grizzlies have lost 13 straight in Houston dating to Nov. 25, 2006 … Memphis is also still chasing Denver (54-24) for the No. 3 seed … Jerryd Bayless and Darrell Arthur have both missed the last two games … The Rockets (44-34) clinched a playoff berth on Wednesday night, are currently the No. 7 seed and could catch the Warriors for sixth place … Memphis leads the season series 2-1.
WARRIORS (at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 ET, League Pass): With two losses in their last three games, the Warriors (45-34) are perilously close to losing the No. 6 seed to Houston. The lead is down to a half-game and the Rockets hold the tie-breaker … After losing center Andrew Bogut to a sprained ankle in the first quarter, Golden State was barely competitive in a 116-97 loss at home to OKC on Thursday night … Bogut is not expected to make the trip to L.A. … Stephen Curry is 17 made 3-pointers away from Ray Allen’s mark for most made in a season (269, in 2005-06). … Lakers lead the season series, 2-1
NUGGETS (at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Nuggets (54-24) once more have the longest win streak in the league at five in a row after Wednesday night’s 96-86 win over the Spurs set a new club record for home wins in a season (36) … Currently No. 3 in the West, catching San Antonio for the second place is highly unlikely, but they’ve got to keep an eye on the Grizzlies, who are just one game back … Point guard Ty Lawson remains day-to-day with a torn plantar fasciitis in his heel … Denver is 7-3 in its last 10 road games … The Mavericks will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
ROCKETS (vs. Memphis, 8 p.m. Eastern, League Pass): The Rockets (44-34) clinched a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 when they beat Phoenix on a goaltending call awarded to James Harden at the buzzer on Tuesday night … Currently sitting in seventh place in the West, now they have their sights set on catching Golden State for the No. 6 seed…They are only one-half game behind the Warriors and hold the tiebreaker … For the past seven seasons, the Rockets have been able to handle whatever the Grizzlies throw at them in Houston. They have a 13-game win streak over Memphis at the Toyota Center … The Grizzlies lead the season series 2-1.
PACERS (vs. Brooklyn, 7 p.m. ET, League Pass): This is a must win at home for the Pacers (49-29) to keep alive their fading hopes of catching the Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference … It would set up a nationally-televised showdown in New York on Sunday afternoon … Coach Frank Vogel has said he’ll chase every win to the end … The Nets lead the season series 2-0 and are pretty much locked into the No. 4 seed.
KNICKS (at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Knicks (51-27) are looking to keep daylight between themselves and Indiana for the No. 2 seed in the East … New York’s 13-game win streak was snapped 118-111 in overtime at Chicago when Nate Robinson pumped in 35 points … Now the Knicks go right back another dangerous guard in Kyrie Irving … The Knicks lead the season series against the Cavs 2-0 and ended a 10-game losing skid at Quicken Loans Arena on March 4 … Carmelo Anthony (28.7 ppg.) is zeroing in on his first scoring title as he’s scored exactly 36 points in three straight games.
BULLS (at Toronto, 7 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Bulls, coming off their streak-busting win over New York on Thursday night, need to win to keep their half-game lead on Atlanta for the No. 5 seed… Chicago is 1-1 against the Raptors … If seeds hold, the Bulls get Brooklyn. They’re 3-1 against the Nets … If the Bulls slips to sixth and the top seeds hold, Chicago will have to play Indiana. The Bulls are just 1-3 against the Pacers … For what it’s worth, after Chicago snapped Miami’s 27-game win streak, the Bulls lost their next game, to Dallas.
HAWKS (vs. Milwaukee, 7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Hawks are just a half-game behind Chicago for the fifth seed. It’s the difference (if the other seeds hold) between playing Indiana (currently the third seed) or Brooklyn (fourth) … The Bucks are set at No. 8. They have nothing to look forward to but a matchup against the best team in the league, Miami, in the first round.