The NBA regular season comes to a close on Sunday, and each team will be playing out the remaining two or three games this week. With an eight-game NBA Wednesday schedule on tap, playoff scenarios are coming into sharp focus. Teams around the league are finishing up with various degrees of motivation.
Let’s break down Wednesday’s slate in motivational tiers, so NBA bettors can decide what to make of some unusual spreads. Plus, be aware of when to make adjustments based on who will play, and who will be sitting out.
Here is the current playoff picture:
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Tier 1: Both Teams Need a Win
Lakers at Clippers
The game of the night is the battle in Los Angeles, starting at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Lakers and Clippers come in with identical 41-38 records, and both teams desperately needing a win in order to potentially avoid the play-in tournament. The Western Conference standings are fairly tight still from spots five through twelve. The Golden State Warriors, currently the five-seed, have not clinched a top-six spot and remain in danger of having to participate in the play-in tournament as well.
Both of these teams should be full-go for tonight’s game, even though the Lakers needed overtime Tuesday night to beat the Jazz. D’Angelo Russell (foot) did not play, and is questionable for tonight’s game. The Clippers will be without Paul George (sprained right knee) and Marcus Morris Sr.
Grizzlies at Pelicans
Memphis currently sits as the two-seed, but still has an outside shot at the top spot as they are two games back with three to play. Dillon Brooks is day-to-day (hip) and did not play Tuesday vs. the Trail Blazers. Otherwise, the Grizzlies should be full strength.
The Pelicans have been on a roll, winning seven of their last 10 games and to catapult into the No. 8 position. Still a shot to avoid the play-in tournament for New Orleans, and they should be highly motivated after a loss to the Kings on Tuesday night.
Kings at Mavericks
The Kings are riding high in Sacramento as they are winners of the Pacific Division and back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. They still chase the two-seed and seek their second win in two days.
The Mavs are in desperation mode after trading for Kyrie Irving mid-season. They have lost seven out of eight games, and currently find themselves outside of the play-in tournament picture. They must catch Oklahoma City for the 10th spot this week.
Bulls at Bucks
Milwaukee and Chicago could both be locked into their playoff spots by night’s end. The Bucks have the top spot locked up barring a three game collapse.
The Bulls have clinched a spot in the play-in tournament and will look to move up to the nine-seed, which would secure an opening home game. However, they must make up two games on Toronto.
Tier 2: One Team Needs a Win, One Potentially Sitting Starters
Raptors at Celtics
The Boston Celtics can still obtain the No. 1 seed if they win their last three games and the Milwaukee Bucks lose their last three. Unlikely, but still possible. Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III did not play Tuesday night in their loss to the 76ers. It appears Al Horford has been ruled out for tonight’s game. More restrictions may come if the team decides the effort isn’t worth the slim chance of seeding advancement.
Meanwhile, the Raptors will look to move past the Hawks to the eight-seed in the East. Toronto and Atlanta are both currently sitting at 40-39 with three games to play.
Nets at Pistons
The Brooklyn Nets have kept their foot on the gas since trading away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They’ve done well enough to rank sixth in the East. They’ll look to hold that spot with a win tonight against the somewhat pesky, but tanking, Pistons.
Wizards at Hawks
Atlanta holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Toronto for the No. 8 seed and got a big win at Chicago Tuesday night without Trae Young. They’ll look for another crucial win tonight against the Wizards.
Washington, now eliminated, has shut down the majority of its key players for the season, including Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Expect a skeleton crew to take the court here.
Tier 3: Both Teams Potentially Sitting Starters
Knicks at Pacers
The Knicks still have PLENTY to play for, but not this week as they are all but locked into No. 5. Jalen Brunson is out tonight to rest and RJ Barrett is questionable. Julius Randle is still out with his sprained left ankle. The Knicks will hope to get him back at some point during the playoffs.
The Pacers are eliminated with key players out, namely Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner. Expect heavy bench minutes for both of these teams during this one.