First, let’s see what happened in five games with ramifications for the Western Conference playoffs and play-in spots. And then we’ll see what it means … or what it can mean.
The NBA standings entering the regular season’s final weekend!
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 Playoffs for each conference. pic.twitter.com/R3XhpBukLN
– NBA (@NBA) May 15, 2021
DETROIT PISTONS 91-DENVER NUGGETS 104
Many thought the Nuggets would let go in Detroit, but they didn’t. And they didn’t reserve Nikola Jokic. Michael Malone, in fact, has not ruled out that the pivot also plays in the last game of the season, in Portland. The Serbian played 26 minutes but had time to make a triple-double (20 + 15 + 11), more luster for the statistics of the season in which he is going to be NBA MVP. That is said soon. The Nuggets have won three straight away games before finishing, also on the road, in Portland… another game that many believe they shouldn’t win. And they are 47-24. They are third parties from the West and depend on themselves. Markus Howard, undrafted rookie, scored 20 points as a starter for the first time in his career, and for many minutes he crossed baskets with Deividas Sirvydis, who later got injured and, things at the end of the season, left a few Pistons who can smile for Diallo’s great level (this time 18 + 12 + 3) since his arrival. At 20-51 and with eleven losses in thirteen games, MoTown’s (16% from 3s, 6/37) are 20-51, only ahead of the Rockets (17 wins).
OKC THUNDER 93-UTAH JAZZ 109
Crushing victory for the Jazz (66-92 at the end of the third quarter), still without Donovan Mitchell but with everyone else, and the League leadership almost in the pocket. Mike Conley played 16 minutes, Clarkson added 18 points, Bogdanovic 22 and Gobert, 16 with 18 rebounds. In the Thunder, 18 points and 6 rebounds for Deck, 19 points for Svi Mykhailiuk and 18 for Maledon. The OKC men are 21-50, trying to be one of the three worst in the NBA and have nine losses in a row, 23 in 24 games (they have only beaten the Celtics) and 26 in the last 28. From 19-24 to current 21-50. Tremendous.
HOUSTON ROCKETS 1222 LA CLIPPERS 115
The Clippers gave rest, thinking about the playoffs (and surely their ways) to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley, they lost against some Rockets who can win because they have already done their homework: 17-54, the worst balance of the season Guaranteed, a luxury after the departure of James Harden and a very promising draft. It was only the second win in fourteen games for the Texans, in which right now Kelly Olynyk, that’s the way it is, is the general captain: 20 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists. Tate scored 20 points, Khyri Thomas 17 with 5 assists (he ended up injured), Brooks 15… In the Clippers, 23 points from Kennard, 13 assists from Rondo, 13 points and 5 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins (against his exes) and, finally , Serge Ibaka’s return. And at full speed: 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 17 minutes. The first party of the Spaniard of Congolese origin after two months of absence. The Clippers (47-24) are fourth in the West, with the same balance of a Nuggets that the hand has for the average.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 107-SACRAMENTO KINGS 106
GSWARRIORS 125-NO PELICANS 122
Two games that could have been dramatic in the fight for play in but had no significance because Pelicans and Kings had already fallen from the battle (Spurs will be tenth in the West) and Warriors and Grizzlies close the season with a duel between them, in San Francisco. The two are with an identical 38-33 and the particular average will also be decided in that duel between them, on Sunday (9:30 p.m., Spanish time). So these previous games that both teams dedicated to giving their main rest, en masse, were not going to change anything. They won, but it didn’t matter: whoever wins Sunday’s duel will be eighth and whoever loses, ninth. It is no small thing. The eighth will have an extra life (he can lose the first game of the play in) and will face Lakers (almost certainly) or Blazers). The Lakers-Warriors is highly desired by many people but is not assured. It can be spoiled by the Grizzlies, who want to avoid ninth place, which forces them to win two games without failure to be in the playoffs, the second away.
That will be, therefore, almost a play in game… just before the play in of a West in which the accounts are crazy. The journalist Matt Moore has tried to summarize it before the storm of scenarios that open only two days (Saturday and Sunday) from the end of the regular season.
Above, the Jazz have almost assured the first place, of the West and the League. And home court advantage in every playoff, Finals included. After beating the Thunder, they are 51-20 to the Suns’ 49-21. So those from Salt Lake City will be first if they beat the Kings in their last game, in Sacramento, or if the Suns lose one of those they have pending, both in San Antonio against Spurs who will be tenth and will play the play in from the tail.
Behind Jazz and Suns, it’s crazy: Nuggets and Clippers will split the third and fourth spots. They are tied, but the Nuggets have the average, so they will be third if they win the last game, in Portland. The Clippers play the Thunder. Of the four named, only the Blazers may have an interest in winning. They are sixth but they have not assured to flee from play in: if the Lakers win their two games, the Oregon team will fall to seventh if they lose with the Nuggets. And they may have little incentive to win: being third gives a field advantage in a possible conference semifinal, an important factor. But being fourth allows to avoid yes or yes to the Lakers, whom nobody wants to see before time, until a hypothetical final of Conference. And playing the semifinal against the Jazz, surely, and not against the Suns, for many a tougher rival for the playoffs than Snyder’s (difficult to know, in any case).
But after their victory over the Pistons, the Nuggets may not be worth losing even if they remain fourth: If the Clippers lose to the Thunder, it will not matter what Malone’s do. And the Clippers have already shown in Houston that they think about giving their stars rest … and, surely, not forcing a Los Angeles duel that will no longer be safe in the first round. But there’s more: The Thunder would also be interested in losing to the Clippers to secure a tie for the third-worst record of the season and not hurt their scores heading into the draft lottery. But someone has to win that Thunder-Clippers … If the Jazz and Suns will be first and second, surely in that order, and the Nuggets and Clippers third and fourth, the Mavericks will be fifth or sixth and will play the Nuggets or Clippers. The Blazers can be fifth, sixth or seventh and the Lakers, sixth or seventh. A tremendous dance in which everyone looks at everyone for the last two days.