Playoff scenarios aplenty in play on final day of 2014-15 season


VIDEO: Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his crew don’t have to sweat out the final night of the season

NEW ORLEANS — It must be nice to be Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics this morning. Your hard-earned playoff berth, the No. 7 seed, is locked up. You already know you have a date with LeBron James and the No. 2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

The mission, so to speak, is complete, courtesy of a 95-93 win over the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night.

But not everyone slept as soundly the night before the final day of this NBA season.

For plenty of teams on both sides of the conference divide this is the biggest night of the regular season. For teams still fighting to get into the playoffs and jockeying for postseason positioning, it all comes down to these final 48 (or more) minutes.

The constantly changing playoff picture is still a bit fuzzy for much of the field.

For some the math is simple — win and you are in. That’s the scenario the Pelicans are facing here tonight at Smoothie King Center (vs. San Antonio, 8 ET, League Pass). The Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder enter tonight 44-37, but New Orleans holds the tie-breaker over OKC. As such, the Pelicans need to at least finish tied with the Thunder record-wise, but a win tonight can secure them the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference.

The Spurs are locked in a fight to the finish for the No. 2 seed in the West behind the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors, who locked up that top spot weeks ago and have not looked back. Knock off the Pelicans and the Spurs clinch the Southwest Division and secure that No. 2 spot. Lose and they could tumble to the No. 5 or 6 seed.

So much for that maintenance program Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is famous for employing with his veteran stars. There is too much at stake for all of the teams in that 2-through-7 mix.

In the Western Conference, the Warriors (No. 1 seed), Portland Trail Blazers (No. 4, but no home court) and Dallas Mavericks (No. 7) already have their seeds locked in.

In the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks (1), Cavaliers (2), Washington Wizards (5), Milwaukee Bucks (6) and Celtics (7) are set.

A quick look at what is at stake for teams still caught up in the crosshairs on the final night of the season

Houston (vs. Utah, 8 ET, League Pass): James Harden and the Rockets need a win over an improved Utah Jazz team, plus a loss by the Spurs, to secure the No. 2 seed and the Southwest Division title. The Rockets could finish with 56 wins, third most in franchise history behind the 1993-94 NBA championship team that won 58 games and the 1996-97 team that won 57.

L.A. Clippers (season complete): They’ve handled their business, winning seven straight games to finish the season and 14 of their final 15, only to have to sit and watch tonight to see who they’ll face in the first round. The Clippers can finish as high as No. 2 (if the Rockets and Spurs lose tonight) and no lower than No. 3 and will host their first-round series. Their opponent? It could be Memphis, the Rockets, Spurs or Dallas Mavericks.

Memphis and Indiana (vs. each other, 9:30 ET, ESPN): The Grizzlies face an energized and motivated Pacers team, fresh off of a must-have double overtime win over Washington Tuesday night. While the Grizzlies have a host of complicated scenarios that can move them up to No. 5, the Pacers are playing for their playoff lives. A loss by Brooklyn or a win by Indiana pushes the Pacers in, where they will face the Hawks in a rematch of last season’s first-round matchup (when the Pacers were the No. 1 seed and the Hawks No. 8). A loss by the Pacers plus a Brooklyn win would put an end to Indiana’s season.

Oklahoma City (at Minnesota, 8 ET, League Pass): The Thunder need to knock off Minnesota in their finale and the Spurs to handle their business against the Pelicans to make sure we get at least four more games of Russell Westbrook. (If the Thunder and Pelicans finish the season with 45-37 marks, the Pelicans get in because they won the season series with OKC 3-1.) The Thunder don’t control their own destiny, but that’s not a concern for a team that has been dealt one severe injury blow after another throughout 2014-15. A loss to the Timberwolves (or a Pelicans win) ends their season, literally and figuratively.

Chicago (vs. Atlanta, 8 ET, League Pass): The Bulls are locked in for home-court advantage in the first round and face the Hawks in a game that has ramifications beyond the first round (they are trying to avoid Cleveland in the second round, provided both teams make it through). They need a win over the Hawks to secure the No. 3 seed. A loss sends them to No. 4.

Toronto (vs. Charlotte, 7 ET, ESPN): The Raptors have a clear path. Beat the Hornets and couple that with a Bulls loss to the Hawks and they secure the No. 3 seed. They have home court either way and will try to exploit that much better than they did last season.

Brooklyn (vs. Orlando, 8 ET, League Pass): The Nets need the playoffs in the worst way, but could see their hopes go up in smoke tonight if the Pacers knock off the Grizzlies later in the night. They need to beat Orlando and hope that the Pacers used up all their mojo in that double-OT home win vs. the Wizards Tuesday.

The possibilities are endless tonight, when we close the curtain on a spectacular regular season and prepare for a postseason that should include much more of the same.

42 Comments

  1. mike jordan says:

    its cavs against spurs/warriors this year

  2. mike jordan says:

    it’s about the Division title, that’s why the spurs can end up as high as no. 2 and as low as no. 6..the playoffs is exciting this year..with the west scrambling for positions, just don’t get into match ups with the spurs..they are better in the playoffs..

    but still, those who know basketball will pick curry for mvp

  3. harriethehawk says:

    LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. michael says:

    here come the old men…………

    (aka the spurs)

  5. albert says:

    guys, remember, everything changes during the playoffs. think reset of stats and standings. coach’s decision making, quick adjustments and strategies play a more vital role vs the regular season. upsets and sweeps come in, too. the reg season was crazy this year especially in the West, this could bring a crazier playoffs. too exciting to anticipate. gospursgo

  6. Bryan says:

    Hope to see Westbrook facing playoffs by himself to see what he´s able to do but Curry will be the MVP for sure

  7. hammar says:

    Big Roy Hibbert has to be the big man in the middle tonight! Go Roy, go Pacers!

  8. nbafanforlife says:

    The nba gave a free ride for okc to get into the playoffs. Such a shame the league stoop so low by reacinding westbrooks another technical foul. Who in their right mind wouldnt think that nba is favoring one team for another. Such a blatant display of mocking the game.

  9. toby says:

    WB claim that he aint got to root for nobody. I guess my two year old son can talk with better grammar! I don’t know how can people nominate him for being the MVP. He should be the MSP(most selfish player). Anyway he is going fishing tomorrow……..

  10. Aram says:

    Tight race, But I think CP3 and James fit the definition of MVP more accurately.

  11. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Lets Go Pacers….

  12. JOJO says:

    THE BEARD IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA

  13. C says:

    Westbrook FG 42%, Harden FG 44%, Curry 3-PT FG 44%. Curry shoots threes more efficiently than either of them shoot the ball period. At the same time, Curry has 3 TO per game while the others are giving up a coache’s nightmare of over 4 per game. There is no doubt who deserves MVP here. Anyone that really knows anything about basketball, would pick CURRY without hesitation.

    • B says:

      Being the MVP does not just revolve around shooting pct and turnovers. Anyone that really knows anything about basketball would understand that.

  14. Sterling says:

    Correction.The possibilities are not endless. They are quantified in those spreadsheets you made. Love you Sekou!

  15. Teejay says:

    Why is Portland in 4th place with 51-30 record? While there are teams with better records ranked below them. Houston 5th place with 55-26 and Memphis ranked 6th place with 54-27. Portland should be ranked 6th based on W-L record. I dont get it , why are they ranked 4th?

    • Mendoza says:

      Because they won their division. Division leaders get at least the 4th seed or higher; However, if their record is worse than that of the 5th seed, the 5th seed gains home court advantage during the series.

    • Luis Garcia says:

      Because they won their division. First four spots are for division winners.

    • evanhansen3 says:

      It’s because they were a division winner. Division winners are guaranteed a top 4 spot.

      • Teejay says:

        Oh, I always thought rankings are based on W-L record. So being a Division Leader gets them a higher rank even if there are teams with better record then them. Wow. Thanks for the clarification!

    • jayson says:

      Because the won there divison. Winning your division gets you a top four seed regardless of your record. However they will not have home court advantage in the first round. Whoever is the 5th seed will.

    • George says:

      Because portland will be a division winner they wont get home court though

    • Dennis says:

      Because they are #1 in the northwest division. Giving them no less than 4th seed because of that. Its stupid

  16. Ill rather see the Pelicans play the Worriers then the Thunder. Because in my opinion Anthony Davis is the real MVP. averages He 24 points, 10 rebonds and 2 blocks a game and for a power forward those are good numbers and kets be honest if the Pelicans were the 3 or 4 seed Anthony davis would be a candidate for MVP. I have always admire Stephen Curry but ill rather se him win the NBA Finals MVP, because after this season he deserve one

  17. John says:

    The Cavs are definitely winning it all this year and James Harden should definitely be MVP.

  18. In my opinion Anthony Davis is the real MVP because he averages 24 points,10 rebonds and 2 blocks per game. For a power forward that amazing numbers. I like Stephen Curry but ill rather se him win the NBA Finals MVP. Because if Steve Cure keeps doing what he’s doing. Lets lets be honest Curry would be a runner for MVP every season.

  19. Jim Muncy says:

    “If’s” mean nothing so what I am about to say means nothing. However, I will say it anyway. If Westbrook was on the Rockets rather than Harden, Houston is where they are or better. If Westbrook was on the Warriors rather than Curry, Golden State is still the dominant team in the West. But if either Harden or Curry is at OKC rather than Westbrook, the Thunder would not even be looking at a chance to be in the playoffs. With the obvious exception of LeBron, Westbrook is the only player in the NBA who could have kept OKC’s hopes alive after Durant and Ibaka went down. I am not saying Westbrook should be MVP but I would certainly take him on my team over whoever does.

  20. NorCal Warrior says:

    Yup, Warriors take out OKC 4-0 or Pelicans 4-1

    I would like to see Hawks Vs Warriors in the finals but I think Cavs will get there. Not too happy about that. Enough with Lebron already. They didn’t get better because he got rest for a week or whatever that was, it’s because they got the big Russian in the middle. Lebron and the Cavs beat the Warriors but it took so much out of Bron Bron that he sat out the next game not because he was hurt, but rather, general fatigue. So, with the way the Warriors run they can’t keep up over 7 games.

    Same thing goes with the Spurs. Their age, despite Leonard being a machine will show especially if their first round goes anything more than 4-1 in their favor

    WARRIORS WIN THE TITLE

    • turkus2 says:

      I can’t believe someone is touting the “the Spurs will show their age” line still. The strength of that team has been adjusting over the years. You don’t win 50 games 16 straight years because you have one thing you do well. The Spurs have constantly shifted and their age doesn’t matter. Only two players in the starting lineup are over the age of 30 (Splitter is 30). Their strength this year has been on adapting the offense to Kawhi’s many strengths and the “Hammer” play requires so little movement by anyone other than the ball-handler its ridiculous.

      SA also sports the #3 defense in the league. A series with Golden State gets real interesting due to Kawhi’s unique ability to take Klay Thompson out of his game.

      These playoffs should be completely nuts.

    • turkus2 says:

      Someone is still saying the Spurs are old. I’d have thought people would learn by now that you don’t win 50 games 16 years in a row by relying on the same guys over and over again. You adapt and that’s what they’ve done better than anyone.

      Only two players in their starting lineup are over the age of 30 (Splitter is 30 – Danny Green and Kawhi are well under). Couple that with the Spurs real strength – their offense, despite all of its “movement” requires very little of it by the team itself. They and the Hawks run a version of the “Hammer” play that requires one player (the ballhandler off the initial pick and roll) move more than 10 feet. Their motion offense is predicated on fast, young wing players taking a pick and pop (the roll man typically doesn’t roll, he just pops to the elbow and looks for the high-low with the other big flex cutting across the lane). The beauty is you can run this offense with lots of big, smart, slow players.

      And their strength is you never get a rest – the Spurs’ bench maintains the pace and pressure.

      What does all of this mean? Nobody is a lock for anything – especially when you consider how adept Kawhi is at completely taking Klay Thompson out of his game and removing the “gravity” Klay demands that gives the other 4 so much space to operate.

      And don’t sleep on LA. Or Chicago. Or Indiana for wreaking havoc and keeping games close.

  21. Tom says:

    Wow! I haven’t seen a tighter Playoff race since ever! Makes it more exciting for the NBA. Got to love it!

    My team is the Clippers and they are in limbo right now who they will be playing. LOL!

  22. HEAT says:

    A person that really took over this season is Chris Paul and I believe he should be at least in the Run for MVP as well as Tim D. The people dnt realize the complete players in the league today. They focus on the lil 1 or2 games instead of looking at the states, record breaking and the entire season. Like D. Jordan and Chris Paul broke records this season, and Jordan dunk more in one game the over half league all together them my top 3

    • jay says:

      I completely agree with you. CP3 is #1 is offensive rating in the nba..plus cp3 has highest +/- in the league in addition to guarding his position but media likes story lines and wow moments. Plus Anthony davis should be getting more love for the mvp..

      Kawhi is by far the best def player in the league

  23. thepuniser says:

    your crazy

  24. haywood says:

    Blazers- Toronto finals.
    should be good.

  25. TheKush says:

    OKC and Pelicans = I’d rather see the Pelicans make it in but the Spurs have a reason to win tonight so that’s going to be a great game I HOPE. If OKC makes into the playoffs they’re going to get swept it will be a boring matchup. The Pelicans can make things interesting in the first round and think Davis would be game – plus the Pelicans matchup well against the Warriors. I’d love to see that matchup think it might go 5 – 6 games whereas OKC would get swept and probably blown out in every game.

    The Raptors should want the 4th seed because even if they win their first round matchup playing Cleveland in the second round they’ll get swept. If the Raps can beat the Wizards in 7 which is what I’d expect to happen they’d get ATL in the second round and the raptors match up well with ATL and who knows maybe they might get Chicago instead of Cleveland in the conference finals which in my opinion is a better matchup than playing the Cavs.

    If Houston can’t get the 2nd seed I got Curry winning the MVP for sure a 6 seeded team shouldn’t have the leagues MVP when the 1st seeded team has been dominant all season long with a dominant offensive player in Curry who has also played great basketball defensively. Hardens defense is still suspect. I was impressed with what he’s done this season however Westbrook after all the injuries still gave OKC a chance to get into the playoffs averaging triple double numbers with less talent than Houston has – so if Houston finishes 6th STEPH CURRY is the MVP!

    • OKC says:

      OKC not only gets swept but blown out 4 straight games? You obviously haven’t watched this matchup at all this year. The series is 3-1 GS and one of those games was with no Russell Westbrook as well as KD, but only one of those game has been a blow out where as all the other loses for okc were close and the win was by 12 points. There is no way this is 4 straight blowouts. To say anyone making it out of the west would be blown out 4 straight games is foolish.

    • bob says:

      Houston has to lose to finish 6th

    • HEAT says:

      I believe warriors will win it all as well as Steph curry getting the MVP award over all Westbrook has been a fantastic player but they might not even make the playoffs he shouldn’t be in the run for MVP considering he might not make the playoffs and if they do it will be by one win so if he is considered to be in the run I’ll rather give it to Anthony Davis or Chris Paul. Chris Paul is the only complete point guard we have today.

      • LBJ = always the best player says:

        LBJ literally turned the Cavs into a #2 playoff team and the Heat did not make it once he left. But ohh the beard, curry, and CP3 are the best. Get outta here. If you had to draft one player as the # 1 pick in the NBA who would you take. It’s always lebron and until hes not the best player in the world, he deserves MVP. THE END.

      • Big Al says:

        But Chris Paul can’t be the MVP if he is still recovering from the ankle injury the real MVP put on him. Look, Steph Curry has been sensational. All the guards fear him because he can shoot from anywhere in the half court, not to mention his ball handling skills are far superior to that of CP3. This league is going to belong to Steph for at least the next 5 years. Bye LeBron, Durant, Rose and anyone else who has won MVP in recent years or even been considered for it.

      • sergio says:

        bulls a better matchup for raptors ? chicago swept toronto in season series by 4-0.