Four days of seeding games remain, and the West’s play-in race is reaching its breaking point. The seeding games run through Friday, but all relevant play-in games will be settled by Thursday, when the Portland Trail Blazers play the Brooklyn Nets.
There are many scenarios still in play, but the picture will clear at least a little after Tuesday. The Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns are closing the gap on the No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies, who could fall out of contention for the play-in tournament altogether.
The Spurs are first up Tuesday, taking on the Houston Rockets, who are still jockeying for position in the Nos. 4-6 seed range. The Suns are still rolling, moving to 6-0 in the bubble, and will face the reeling Philadelphia 76ers. The Grizzlies are 1-5 in the bubble and have a tough draw to finish, starting with the Boston Celtics. Boston could rest starters with its position locked, but the Celtics have a fine line to toe between being ready and being rested. Damian Lillard is on a scoring spree, and his Blazers will take on a Dallas Mavericks team still trying to avoid a first-round matchup with the LA Clippers.
Here’s the current situation:
The Grizzlies get the 8-seed if they win their last two games or if they win one and Portland loses one or if Portland loses both, Phoenix loses one and San Antonio loses one. The Blazers get in if they win their last two and Memphis loses one or if they win one and Memphis loses both, with the Spurs and Suns splitting their final two. The Suns get in if they win their last two, the Grizzlies lose their last two and the Blazers split their two. The Spurs get in if they win their last two, Memphis loses both and Portland and Phoenix split their final two.
By the end of business Tuesday, the Grizzlies could lock up No. 8 if they beat the Celtics and the Blazers lose to the Mavericks. That’s the only outcome that could be settled in terms of No. 8.
For the 9-seed? If the Blazers beat the Mavericks and everyone else loses, Portland is at least guaranteed No. 9. Beyond that, things will have to wait until Thursday. — Royce Young
Here’s the latest on the standings, the games to watch Monday and Tuesday, and everything else you need to know. Check back for highlights and updates throughout the day.
Tuesday’s clinching scenarios
Here they are, straight from the NBA’s computers:
Memphis clinches a spot in the play-in game with a win OR losses by both Phoenix and San Antonio
Portland clinches a spot in the play-in game with a win AND losses by Phoenix and San Antonio
Phoenix is eliminated with a loss AND a Portland win
San Antonio is eliminated with a loss AND a win by either Portland or Phoenix
So by the end of the day, both of Saturday’s play-in opponents could be set, or neither of them could, in which case we’ll do this dance again on Thursday.
Harden out, Westbrook in for Rockets
The Houston Rockets playing the front end of a back-to-back Tuesday, so James Harden is getting the day off for rest. Though the Rockets will be down one former MVP winner, they’re getting another one back.
Westbrook is back for the squad today! 🚀 pic.twitter.com/VvswB7mmdK
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 11, 2020
Russell Westbrook missed the past two seeding games with a bruised right quad, but he’ll be in the lineup against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. Westbrook averaged 25.7 points and 8.3 assists per game in Houston’s first three seeding games.
Don’t expect to see your favorite Bucks tonight
The Milwaukee Bucks are locked into the top seed in the East. The Washington Wizards, Milwaukee’s opponent tonight, have already been eliminated from playoff contention. There’s not a lot at stake in this one, and the Bucks are using it as an opportunity to get their banged-up players some time to recuperate before the playoffs begin next week. Starters Khris Middleton (load management), Eric Bledsoe (knee soreness), Wesley Matthews (adductor soreness) and sixth man Donte DiVincenzo (elbow contusion) have already been declared out. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as questionable after undergoing dental surgery on Monday. No word on whether Brook and Robin Lopez, the NBA’s biggest Disney fans, will get an off day to visit Epcot.
Tuesday’s must-see games
After winning Sunday against the Pelicans, the Spurs hope to remain alive in the race for a play-in tournament spot by beating their in-state rivals. Houston has something to play for as well: The Rockets are trying to lock in the fourth seed in the Western Conference. — Tim Bontemps
Memphis still has everything to play for and needs a win in one of its final two games against Boston or Milwaukee to guarantee itself a place in the play-in tournament next weekend. The Grizzlies could get a break in playing the Celtics, who are locked in the third seed and have nothing to play for. — Bontemps
The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans were eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday, leaving the opportunity to make the play-in tournament to the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Suns and Spurs. All four of those teams play Tuesday with little room for error.
The No. 8 Grizzlies still haven’t secured a postseason bid and need to win their last two games to control their destiny. On Tuesday, they play the Celtics, who have little to play for and might rest starters. The Suns also face a tough East team, but the Sixers will be without Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
The Spurs and Blazers face West teams still playing for their seeding. The Rockets and Mavericks each sit a game behind the team ahead of them, with three and two games left, respectively.
8. Memphis Grizzlies | 33-38 (.465) | —
9. Portland Trail Blazers | 33-39 (.458) | 0.5 GB
10. Phoenix Suns | 32-39 (.451) | 1.0 GB
11. San Antonio Spurs | 31-38 (.449) | 1.0 GB
Wednesday’s must-see games
Bubble darling T.J. Warren will look to get back on track after a disappointing game (12 points, 5-of-14 shooting, 2-of-6 from 3) against the Miami Heat. Still, Warren is averaging 31 points per game in the bubble, with a 57.8/52.4/88.9 shooting line. The Pacers hope that Warren will resume his scoring spree because they’re on track to face Miami in the first round. Houston, meanwhile, will be on the second night of a back-to-back. Russell Westbrook will miss Wednesday’s game for rest, though the plan is to have Eric Gordon back. Gordon has not played in any seeding games because of a sprained ankle. — Andrew Lopez
This game could end up deciding the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference — or leave Denver fighting not to fall to the No. 4 seed, depending on Houston’s performance. To move up from No. 3 to No. 2, Denver would have to win back-to-back games to finish the seeding games, and the Clippers would have to drop both of their games. Denver is coming off a three-point loss to the Lakers in which Kyle Kuzma‘s go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.4 left lifted Los Angeles over Denver’s bench, which played the entire fourth. The Clippers are coming off of two days of rest after Sunday’s 129-120 loss to the Nets. It was, however, Kawhi Leonard‘s best performance in the bubble, as he finished with 39 points — tied for the third-most points he has scored in a game this season. — Lopez
Analysis and intel
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