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.
April 24, 2019, 2:18 amDamian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard put up an instant classic performance featuring a game-winning deep three, 10 total triples and a 50-spot in Tuesday's 118-115 closeout win over the Thunder in Portland.
Lillard started off Game 5 with 34 first-half points while playing all 24 minutes. He finished with seven boards, six dimes, three steals and a block while shooting 17-for-33 from the field and 6-for-8 from the line. Despite a big second-half Thunder run, Lillard kept it going all the way until the buzzer as his shot from near the logo fell, giving him an even 50 and a series win as he waived goodbye to the Thunder.
April 24, 2019, 2:08 amCJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum put up 17 points (8-of-19 FGs), two rebounds, two assists, one triple and two blocks in 32 minutes in Tuesday's closeout win over the Thunder.
McCollum sat a little more than usual in the first half after getting his third foul early, though he also ended with three fouls in another example of why coaches should just leave players in until they get their fourth or fifth. McCollum had been on fire in this series, averaging over 26 points per game coming into tonight's game. He and the Blazers now wait to see if they'll get the Nuggets or the Spurs in the next round.
April 24, 2019, 1:55 amEnes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers
Enes Kanter toughed out a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double over 32 minutes in Tuesday's Game 5 victory over the Thunder.
Kanter also had four assists and a block while shooting 6-for-9 from the floor tonight. He got pretty banged up in the first half, injuring his shoulder which was heavily wrapped after the game. Kanter averaged over 13 points and 10 rebounds in under 30 minutes for the series and he looks like one of the best mid-season signings in the league at this point.
April 24, 2019, 1:48 amMaurice Harkless - F - Trail Blazers
Maurice Harkless had 17 points on just nine shots with seven rebounds, an assist and a steal in 33 minutes on Tuesday vs. the Thunder.
It's not wise to rely on Harkless, but he can be the wildcard the Blazers need every few games. After closing out the Thunder tonight, they'll await the winner of the Spurs and Nuggets series.
April 24, 2019, 1:37 amPaul George - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Paul George had a huge game with 36 points (14-of-20 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs), nine rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers in Tuesday's 118-115 road loss to the Blazers.
George was feeling it early, making his first five shots. He battled through first-half foul trouble and likely some lingering pain from his injury. But it wasn't quite enough as Damian Lillard out-played him in this one to end the series in Portland.
April 24, 2019, 1:30 amRussell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook put up one final triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists as the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs by the Blazers on Tuesday.
Aside from making all three of his free throws, it was a microcosm of Westbrook's season. He shot just 11-of-31 (4-of-11 from three) and had four steals, two blocks and five turnovers in 45 minutes. There's no better value if you're looking to punt three categories next season.
April 24, 2019, 1:24 amDennis Schroder - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Dennis Schroder went for 17 points on 7-of-10 from the field in addition to two rebounds, three assists, two treys and just one turnover in 33 minutes in Tuesday's Game 5 loss.
That makes it three straight games of 17 points and two threes for Schroder. It'll be interesting to see if he can carve out a slightly bigger role as he returns to OKC next season with the Thunder possibly looking to make some changes.
April 24, 2019, 1:19 amJerami Grant - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Jerami Grant had an incredibly efficient 16 points (7-for-8 FGs) to go with eight boards, one assist, three blocks and two threes in 44 minutes in Tuesday's close loss to the Blazers.
It was quite the fantasy line for Grant, though it will be his final one until October. The Thunder had a great shot at a win tonight, but the Blazers closed the game and series out in miracle fashion.
April 24, 2019, 1:03 amJamal Murray - G - Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray knocked down plenty of shots again on his way to a game-high 23 points (9-of-16 FGs) in 28 minutes in Tuesday night's 108-90 home win over the Spurs.
Consistently inconsistent, the streaky Murray put together a second straight great game tonight. In addition to the shooting, which included 4-for-9 from deep, he added four boards, seven dimes, two steals and a block. The Nuggets often go as he goes, so they'll look for him to keep it up in Game 6 in San Antonio.
April 24, 2019, 12:53 amNikola Jokic - C - Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic had another double-double on Tuesday vs. the Spurs, going for 16 points (5-for-11 FGs, 4-for-4 FTs), 11 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block and two threes in 33 minutes.
The Joker wasn’t needed down the stretch as the Nuggets put this game out of reach early. It’s been a great series for him with averages of 19.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists. He'll try to help secure a series win this Thursday night in San Antonio.