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NBA League Pass Games to Watch: Week 20

Spotlighting key games to watch this week that will impact the postseason races.

Brian Martin, for NBA.com

The Wizards are tied for the best record (12-3) over the past 15 games.

Monday, May 3

Indiana at Washington
7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

If the season ended today, this would be the 9-10 Game in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament, with the winner advancing to face the loser of the 7-8 Game for a chance to earn the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. The Wizards have gone 12-3 over their past 15 games – tied with Denver and New York for the best record in the league during that stretch – as they have climbed into the Play-In Tournament. The Pacers have gone 8-7 in that time, but still lead the Wizards by 1.5 games for the No. 9 spot and trail the Hornets by just a half-game for the No. 8 spot.

Tuesday, May 4

Golden State at New Orleans
8 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

The Warriors and Pelicans will play their entire season series in a span of 12 days, beginning Monday on ESPN and continuing Tuesday on League Pass. The Pelicans are currently on the outside looking in on the Play-In Tournament, trailing San Antonio by 2.5 games and Golden State by 3.0 games. The Pelicans are in must-win mode if they hope to extend their season to the Play-In and possibly beyond. Winning the season series with Golden State is a must – a sweep would be even better.

Wednesday, May 5

Phoenix at Atlanta
8 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

The Phoenix Suns open Week 20 sitting atop the Western Conference standings and tied with the Utah Jazz for the best record in the NBA at 46-18. The Suns swept the season series with the Jazz, so they own the tiebreaker should the teams end the season with matching records. While the Suns are battling for the top seed in the West, the Hawks are in the middle of a four-team race for the Nos. 4-6 seeds in the East and looking to avoid the Play-In.

Atlanta opens the week in fifth place by virtue of having the head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami. Both the Hawks and Heat are 1.5 games back of New York for the No. 4 seed and home-court in the first round, but also just 1.0 game up on Boston for the No. 7 seed and having to go through the Play-In Tournament to secure a playoff berth. The Hawks are 19-11 at home and have six of their final seven games at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, including this matchup with Phoenix.

The Knicks and Nuggets both enter Week 20 having won nine of their last 10 games.

New York at Denver
9 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

Both the Nuggets and Knicks enter Week 20 having won nine of their last 10 games and sit in third and fourth place in their respective conference. This matchup features two end-of-season award favorites with Nikola Jokic making a strong case for Kia MVP (especially leading the Nuggets at a 9-1 record since Jamal Murray was lost for the season) and Julius Randle among the top contenders for Kia Most Improved Player. Both players are having career-best seasons and are two of the three players (along with reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo) to average at least 24 points, 10 rebonds and five assists this season.

Thursday, May 6

Chicago at Charlotte
7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

LaMelo Ball returned to the court on Saturday after missing 21 games with a fracture wrist and immediately reminded everyone why he was the Kia Rookie of the Year favorite prior to his injury. This full-court pass to Miles Bridges was especially ridiculous:

The Hornets enter Week 20 holding the No. 8 spot in the East with just a half-game cushion on No. 9 Indiana and a two-game lead on red-hot Washington. Staying in the 7-8 Game would give the Hornets two opportunities to get a win and secure a playoff berth – ending a four-year drought. The Bulls are trying to end a three-year playoff drought, but have some work ahead of them just to get into the Play-In field. They begin the week a half-game back of No. 11 Toronto and three games back of No. 10 Washington. The Bulls have to put some wins together and get some help from the teams facing the Raptors and Wizards in order to climb back into contention.

Friday, May 7

Denver at Utah
9 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

The Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the West meet for the final time this regular season with the head-to-head tiebreaker hanging in the balance. The Jazz begin the week with a three-game cushion over the Nuggets and are tied with Phoenix for the top record not just in the West, but the entire NBA at 46-18. Keep in mind, the Nuggets are an NBA-best 22-6 since the All-Star break, while the Jazz are tied for fourth at 19-9. But beyond the implications for playoff seeding, this could be a preview of a potential playoff matchup; if these standings hold, this would be a potential second-round matchup if both teams advance past the first round.

Saturday, May 8

San Antonio at Portland
10 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

If the season ended today, both the Blazers (No. 7) and Spurs (No. 10) would be in the Play-In Tournament. While the Spurs’ odds of escaping the Play-In are very small – they trail by 4.5 games entering Week 20 – the Blazers are only in the Play-In at the moment due to tiebreaker rules.

The No. 5 Mavericks, No. 6 Lakers and Blazers all begin the week with 36-28 records. Because the Mavericks lead the Southwest Division, they win the first tiebreaker between the three teams and get the No. 5 spot. Then it comes to the Lakers and Blazers, who have split their first two games of the season series, so the tiebreaker goes to conference win percentage and the Lakers win that tiebreaker with Portland.

Now that that’s out of the way, the point here is that the Blazers – who enter the week on a four-game win streak – are in position to get out of the Play-In Tournament and climb as high as the No. 5 spot in the West. The Blazers have a tough schedule to close out the season, with games against Lakers, Jazz, Suns and Nuggets on the horizon. Getting wins against teams below them in the standings (Spurs, Rockets, Cavaliers) will be important if they want to avoid being in the Play-In for the second straight season.

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