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NBA League Pass Games to Watch: Week 18

From the playoff chase to down-to-the-wire jockeying for the scoring crown, these games this week will impact the league on several fronts.

Brian Martin, for NBA.com

The Celtics and Knicks enter Week 18 with the longest active win streaks in the league at six wins each.

Note: All records and stats through games played on Sunday, April 18

Monday, April 19

Chicago (23-33) at Boston (31-26)
7:30 p.m., NBA League Pass

The Celtics enter Week 18 riding a six-game win streak, including a win over Golden State on Saturday that featured an incredible duel between Jayson Tatum and Stephen Curry. The Celtics are tied with Atlanta in the East standings as they push for a top-four seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago is in the middle of a three-way battle for the final spot in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament as Toronto (0.414) holds a slight edge over Chicago (0.411) and Washington (0.411). With the Raptors (three games) and Wizards (four games) on win streaks, the Bulls have to keep pace with them.

Phoenix (40-16) at Milwaukee (35-21)
8 p.m., NBA League Pass

The No. 2 team in the West and the No. 3 team in the East meet for the second time this season. In their first meeting, the Suns rallied from a 16-point deficit to edge the Bucks 125-124 despite Giannis Antetokounmpo scoring a season-high 47 points. The Suns got a combined 58 points from Devin Booker and Chris Paul, including 15 in the fourth quarter to lead the Suns’ to a win. If their second meeting is anything like the first, this will definitely trigger the #LeaguePassAlert tweets.

Tuesday, April 20

Charlotte (27-28) at New York (31-27)
7:30 p.m., NBA League Pass

The Knicks will look to extend their current win streak to seven games when they host the Hornets on Tuesday. This is New York’s longest win streak since winning eight straight in March 2014, and has the Knicks in position to snap their seven-season playoff drought. The Knicks are in sixth place in the East, a half game behind Boston and Atlanta in the race for home-court in the first round and 1.5 games up on Miami in the race to secure a guaranteed playoff berth and avoid the Play-In. The Hornets are No. 8 and in the Play-In as they stay in the playoff hunt despite being without starters LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward.

Bradley Beal and Stephen Curry battle for the scoring title, while Russell Westbrook chases triple-double history.

Wednesday, April 21

Golden State (28-29) at Washington (23-33)
7 p.m., NBA League Pass

At the All-Star break, No. 1 scorer Bradley Beal (32.9 ppg) held a 3.2 points per game advantage on No. 4 scorer Stephen Curry (29.7) in the race for the season’s scoring title. Entering Week 18, Curry has narrowed that gap to just 0.1 ppg thanks to a hot streak the last few weeks. Since the break, Curry is averaging a league-high 34.4 ppg, while Beal is ninth at 27.3 ppg. Can Curry pass Beal to capture his second scoring title, or can Beal hold him off to win his first? Another player to watch is Russell Westbrook, who enters the week having recorded seven triple-doubles in his last eight games; he now has 25 for the season and 171 for his career. He now needs 11 triple-doubles in Washington’s final 16 games to pass Oscar Robertson (181) for the most triple-doubles in league history. Aside from individual accolades, the Wizards have also won four straight to stay in contention for the final spot in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament.

Denver (36-20) at Portland (32-23)
10 p.m., NBA League Pass

After losing Jamal Murray to a torn ACL in a loss to the Warriors last Monday (April 12), the Nuggets have won two straight as they look to hold their top-four playoff position without their second-leading scorer. In the last two games, Michael Porter Jr. has averaged 23 points on 63% shooting from the field and 53.8% (7-13) from 3-point range to help make up for the loss of Murray’s offense. Can Denver keep winning and hold teams like Portland — which currently sits in sixth place in the West and four games back of Denver — at bay? This is the second meeting of the season between the Nuggets and Blazers (Denver won the first) as the two teams also meet on the final day of the regular season (May 16).

Thursday, April 22

Phoenix (40-16) at Boston (31-26)
7 p.m., NBA League Pass

The Suns are second in the West, just 1.5 games back of Utah for the top spot in the West and the top record in the league. The Celtics are tied with Atlanta in the East as the teams hold the Nos. 4 and 5 spots, respectively, in what would be a first-round matchup. The Hawks won the season series with the Celtics, so if Boston wants home court in the first round — they are 18-10 at home compared to 13-16 on the road this season — they will have to finish ahead of the Hawks to get the No. 4 spot.

Friday, April 23 

Miami (28-28) at Atlanta (31-26)
7:30 p.m., NBA League Pass

After representing the Eastern Conference in The Finals last season, the Heat find themselves in the Play-In mix with less than a month to play. Miami got a big win on Sunday thanks to a game-winning buzzer-beater from Bam Adebayo and trail New York by 1 1/2 games and Atlanta and Boston by two games. Can Miami climb out of the Play-In field and secure a guaranteed playoff berth?

Saturday, April 24

San Antonio (27-28) at New Orleans (25-32)
8 p.m., NBA League Pass

This is a must-win for New Orleans if they want any chance of catching the Spurs for the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference Play-In. The Pelicans enter the week on a three-game losing streak and site four games back of the Spurs in the loss column. The teams split their first two meeting of the season, so the outcome of this game will determine the head-to-head tiebreaker if it is needed at season’s end to determine which team is in or out of the Play-In field.

Learn more about what the NBA Play-In Tournament is, how it works and when it happens.

Sunday, April 25

Memphis (29-26) at Portland (32-23)
4 p.m., NBA League Pass

This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Play-In, which the Blazers won to secure the eighth and final playoff spot. Entering Week 18, the Blazers hold the No. 6 spot with a two-game advantage over the -Mavericks and a 2 1/2 game advantage over the Grizzlies. Memphis has won seven of its last 10 games, while the Blazers are just 4-6 in their last 10 entering this week. This is key as the Grizzlies and Blazers play their entire three-game season series in a six-day span (April 23, 25 and 28).

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