The Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers tipped things off on Wednesday in a game that helped decide the remaining seeds in the East. The Pacers’ win locked them into the No.4-No. 5 matchup with the Miami Heat, with Friday’s meeting between the two to decide the final seeding. The Philadelphia 76ers are locked into the No. 6 spot with Indiana’s win. With that, all four Eastern Conference first-round matchups are set.
The playoff picture in the West, however, will come down to Thursday’s action. The Clippers secured the No. 2 seed with a win over the Nuggets on Wednesday. The Nuggets are now locked into the No. 3 seed and will meet the No. 6 Utah Jazz in the first round. The Rockets’ loss to the Pacers secures a No. 4-No. 5 matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, with final seeding still to be decided in the final regular-season games. All four West teams competing for the final two play-in spots will play Thursday to close out the playoff picture.
Here’s the latest on the standings, the games to watch Wednesday and Thursday, and everything you need to know. Check back for highlights and updates throughout the day.
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Mike Muscala hits game-winner for the Thunder
Tyler Herro scored a career-high 30 points against the Thunder, but Mike Muscala sealed a win for Oklahoma City.
Grizzlies will not face Giannis in final seeding game
Giannis Antetokounpo says he had built-up anger from the lack of foul calls during the restart, which is what led to him headbutting Mortiz Wagner.
If the Memphis Grizzlies can take care of business on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks, they might need to send Moe Wagner a thank you note.
The Grizzlies are 1-6 in the bubble and are at risk of falling out of playoff contention, but they caught a break on Wednesday when the NBA announced that Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss Thursday’s game while serving a one-game suspension for head-butting Wagner on Tuesday.
Memphis’ situation is simple: Win, and they’re in the play-in. Lose, and it’s out of their hands.
The Bucks are locked into the East’s top seed and don’t have a lot of incentive to play their best players anyway, and Antetokounmpo’s suspension made at least one decision easy for coach Mike Budenholzer.
But that’s not of the Grizzlies’ concern. Following Tuesday’s loss to the Boston Celtics, coach Taylor Jenkins said they’re trying to keep the focus on themselves, maintaining they just haven’t met their own standard. Doesn’t hurt that the reigning MVP won’t be getting in the way of finally finding it, though. — Royce Young
Nick Nurse lets his assistant coach in win vs. Sixers
Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse is letting assistant Adrian Griffin take over the team for Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the team announced about 90 minutes prior to tip-off.
Griffin thanked Nurse for the opportunity during pregame media availability.
“I think [Nurse] is an awesome human being,” Griffin said. “He understands that a coach like me needs some reps at being a head coach. He knows my ambition and wants to see me grow as an individual on and off the court. It’s an awesome gesture by coach. He approached me with it. It just shows what kind of character that Coach Nurse has. We have a first-class organization for a reason.” — Andrew Lopez
Wednesday’s must-see games
Full scoreboard for Wednesday
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Updated West play-in standings
8. Portland Trail Blazers | 34-39 (.466) | —
t-9. Memphis Grizzlies | 33-39 (.458) | 0.5 GB
t-9. Phoenix Suns | 33-39 (.458) | 0.5 GB
11. San Antonio Spurs | 32-38 (.457) | 0.5 GB
MORE: NBA Western Conference play-in scenarios
Thursday’s must-see games
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Memphis Grizzlies | 4 p.m. ET
Memphis can guarantee itself a shot in the play-in tournament with a victory against the Bucks, locking up at least the No. 9 seed. A win and a loss by Portland later in the night gets the Grizzlies to the eighth spot, giving them the upper hand in the play-in. The good news for Memphis is it probably won’t have to face a full-strength Bucks’ squad. Giannis Antetokounmpo might sit out the game anyway because of his head-butt ejection from Tuesday’s game. Milwaukee could opt to rest more starters heading into the playoffs with the top seed in the East already locked up. — Andrew Lopez
Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns | 4 p.m. ET
Like the Grizzlies, the Suns might also benefit from a team that is looking toward the playoffs rather than going all out in the final seeding game. With Tuesday’s loss to Portland, Dallas is locked in to the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The Mavericks could look to rest Luka Doncic (32 points, 11.3 assists, 11 rebounds in six bubble games) and Kristaps Porzingis (30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks in six bubble games), which could open things up for Phoenix. Even though the Suns are looking to get to 8-0, a trip to the playoffs isn’t guaranteed. They need one of Memphis or Portland to lose, combined with a win of their own. It would be Phoenix’s first eight-game winning streak since 2010, which is also the last time the Suns made the playoffs. — Lopez
San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz | 6:30 p.m. ET
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked what he would have said if a month ago someone told him San Antonio had a chance to go 6-2 in the bubble and make the playoffs. “I would have had them drug-tested,” Popovich deadpanned. Popovich noted that when your team doesn’t have championship aspirations, you have to look toward development. Luckily for the Spurs, that has turned into a possible playoff berth. Because of percentage points though, the Spurs need more help than others. Utah, however, could be playing for matchups in the playoffs. Currently No. 6, the Jazz have a chance to move up a spot if things bounce their way with other games. — Lopez
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets | 9 p.m. ET
You should really just be tuning into this game to see what Damian Lillard does next: 51 points? 61 points? More? Who knows. Lillard is averaging a bubble-best 37 points while also putting up 9.3 assists in 41.4 minutes. CJ McCollum is the only other player in Florida averaging 40.0 minutes as Portland has leaned on their one-two combo to keep the Blazers in playoff contention. Brooklyn is locked in as the No. 7 seed and Jacque Vaughn — coaching for a chance to continue on as the Nets’ head coach next season — has his team 5-2 overall with three straight wins. — Lopez
Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics | Noon p.m. ET
Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers | 1:30 p.m. ET
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Orlando Magic | 9 p.m. ET
Full scoreboard for Thursday
Analysis and intel
NBA Power Rankings: A shake-up in the top 5 as playoff matchups take shape
The playoff picture is beginning to take shape as the final week of seeding games begins.
West play-in predictions: Suns perfect, Lillard spectacular, but who gets in?
Phoenix is 7-0 and Portland keeps winning. Here are the latest projections for the four-team race.
Eight games that will swing the NBA playoff race this week
To get you ready for this stretch run, our NBA experts highlight the eight games that will decide the playoff picture.