April 9, 2018, 5:00 pm
Another NBA regular season is almost over, confirming the age-old expression – time really does fly when you’re having fun. With just three days remaining in the season, your fantasy season may already be over and if you’ve been visiting HoopBall throughout the season, odds are good that you’re lifting your league’s trophy over your head – or at least collecting your friends’ money as league champion.
If your league is going to the end of the regular season, this is the place to check in and see what to expect in these next few days. You have a lot at stake in these final 72 hours of the 2017-18 NBA season. And you’re not the only one.
The Eastern Conference is clinched for all eight teams headed to the playoffs. All that remains to be determined is seeding. The red-hot Sixers appear to be destined for the 3-seed but the Cavs haven’t been counted out just yet. The Bucks, Heat and Wizards all have two games remaining and are trying to sort out where they end up at the bottom of the East’s playoff picture.
The Western Conference is a whole lot more complicated and dramatic. The Rockets and Warriors locked up the top two spots a long time ago and the Blazers and Jazz have also sealed playoff spots. After that though, things get interesting as there are five teams competing for four spots, separated by only one game in the standings. Let’s take a look at what these teams have remaining over the final three days of the season.
Pelicans (46-34) – @ Clippers, vs. Spurs
Spurs (46-34) – vs. Kings, @ Pelicans
Thunder (46-34) – @ Heat, vs. Grizzlies
Wolves (45-35) – vs. Grizzlies, vs. Nuggets
Nuggets (45-35) – vs. Blazers, @ Wolves
The two biggest games mentioned above occur on the final night of the regular season when the Spurs travel to New Orleans to play Anthony Davis and the Pelicans and the Nuggets head to Minnesota. If spots aren’t clinched before Wednesday, those two games loom large and could very well be elimination games.
However, there’s a chance all that drama goes away tonight. The Pelicans, Spurs and Thunder can all clinch playoff spots with wins tonight. Minnesota gets in with a win, a Spurs win and a Nuggets loss to Portland. All Denver can do tonight is hang on for dear life.
While it’s a wild finish out west, let’s help you get a better fantasy finish with a look at the final games of the regular season.
Games Played Breakdown
Two Games: Blazers, Bucks, Bulls, Cavs, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Nets, Nuggets, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Sixers, Spurs, Thunder, Wizards, Wolves
One Game: Hawks, Hornets, Mavericks, Pacers, Suns, Warriors
With so few games left, it’s hard to predict who will be active in the home stretch. Teams locked into the playoffs, especially that have their seed clinched, may rest their stars. Tanking teams have been finding reasons to sit their best for weeks now.
One team guaranteed to go all-out in their final days is the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Sixers win out, the best the Cavs can do is the 4-seed and a tough first round matchup with the Pacers. But if Philly slips up once in their last two games, Cleveland can jump to the 3. The Cavs’ last two games of the season are against the same team – the tanking New York Knicks. Cleveland has a top-five offense that has exploded recently. Jeff Green is still available in a lot of leagues and has been a top-100 play over the last month, averaging 12.7 points per game, nearly a full steal and block plus 46/33/88 shooting splits.
Beyond that, it’s all about playing the matchups as the season comes to a close. The Clippers may be out of playoff contention but they have two home games left, tonight against the Pelicans and Wednesday against the Lakers. The Clips have scored 109.1 points per game in their last 13 games and are already digging deep into their bench. Watch for Tyrone Wallace in the absence of Lou Williams. Wallace scored 18 and added a pair of steals last time out.
Kyle O’Quinn, C, Knicks
O’Quinn has been a monster on the glass for the last four games, averaging 14.3 boards per game in that span. 5.3 of them have been on the offensive glass, showing off his fantastic level of effort. Add in the fact that this former Norfolk State alum has posted 12.5 points and 3.3 blocks per contest and there is no better big to add this late in the season.
Josh Hart, SG, Lakers
Speaking of monsters on the glass, Hart has been awesome since returning from injury. He’s averaging 13.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and he’s shooting 48 percent. Hart has had three double-digit rebounding efforts in the last six games and he’s recently found his scoring touch, pouring in 20 and 25 in his last two. The Lakers finish things with two fast-paced opponents, the Rockets on Tuesday and the Clippers on Wednesday.
Johnathan Motley, PF, Mavericks
This Baylor rookie has come on strong in the first three starts of his career. He’s put up 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and a steal while hitting 53 percent from the floor. The Mavs only have one game remaining but Motley will get the opportunity to add to his rookie resume against the hardest working tank in the league, the Suns, on Tuesday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) is questionable for tonight’s game against the Magic.
Gary Harris (knee) is expected to take the floor tonight as the Nuggets fight for their season against the Blazers.
Blake Griffin (ankle) has not been officially shut down but he will not play in tonight’s game against the Raptors. With Detroit eliminated, it seems unlikely that Griffin would play in Wednesday’s regular season finale.
Lou Williams (ankle) has been ruled out for the Clippers’ game with the Pelicans tonight. Austin Rivers (elbow) is also out.
Lonzo Ball (knee), Kyle Kuzma (ankle) and Brandon Ingram (concussion) are all doubtful to return this season.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (ankle) is doubtful to play in the Knicks’ tilt with the Cavs tonight.
Eric Gordon (knee) and Ryan Anderson (ankle) are questionable for the Rockets’ game with the Lakers tomorrow night.
Josh Jackson (quad) and Marquese Chriss (hip) both sat out on Sunday and should be considered questionable ahead of the Suns’ game with the Mavericks on Tuesday — Chriss, as well as Phoenix’s usual cast of absences, have already been listed as out in the game notes.
JaMychal Green (knee) is out for tonight’s game with the Wolves.