NBA League Pass Games to Watch: Week 21
We take a look at two games each night this week that will effect one particular race for either the Playoffs or Play-In Tournament.
Brian Martin, for NBA.com
Note: All records and stats through games played on May 9. Also, the television schedule for this weekend’s games has not been released at the time of this publication, so only games through Friday
Monday, May 10
New Orleans at Memphis, 8 p.m. ET
Milwaukee at San Antonio, 8:30 p.m. ET
Race: New Orleans vs San Antonio for No. 10 Seed in West Play-In Tournament
The Spurs enter the week with a 1.5 game lead over the Pelicans for the final spot in the Play-In and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the season series 2-1.
However, San Antonio has dropped six of its last seven games to keep hope alive for New Orleans, who have won four of their last six games, including Sunday’s game in Charlotte without Zion Williamson, who is out indefinitely with a broken finger.
The Spurs and Pelicans both face a challenge on Monday as San Antonio host Milwaukee, a team that has won five in a row and trying to climb to the No. 2 spot in the East. The Pelicans face a Grizzlies squad that currently holds the No. 9 spot in the West, but is just a half-game back of No. 8 Golden State.
A Spurs win would go a long way toward securing the Play-In berth as they would remain two games up in the loss column and the Pelicans must finish with a superior record with four games to play to take the spot from San Antonio.
Tuesday, May 11
Dallas at Memphis, 8 p.m. ET
Phoenix at Golden State, 10 p.m. ET
Race: Memphis vs. Golden State for No. 8 Seed in West Play-In Tournament
The Warriors and Grizzlies enter Week 21 each with 33 losses on the season, with Golden State holding a half-game lead over the Grizzlies by virtue of having one extra win. The Warriors will look to maintain that lead this week with games against Utah, Phoenix and New Orleans before meeting Memphis on the final day of the regular season. While Golden State faces the top two teams in the West this week, the Grizzlies have New Orleans, Dallas and two games with Sacramento on their schedule before the regular season finale.
The Warriors-Grizzlies season series is tied 1-1, so the winner of Sunday’s game will earn the head-to-head tiebreaker should they finished tie when the season wraps on Sunday.
The difference between securing the No. 8 and No. 9 spot in the Play-In Tournament is significant. The teams in the 7-8 game need to only win one game in order to secure a playoff berth – the winner of 7 vs. 8 automatically gets the No. 7 seed, while the loser of 7 vs. 8 gets to play the winner of 9 vs. 10 in a game that determines who gets the No. 8 seed.
Wednesday, May 12
Boston at Cleveland, 8 p.m. ET
Washington at Atlanta, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Race: Boston vs. Atlanta vs. Miami all trying to avoid finishing No. 7 in the East
The Celtics are in action on League Pass while the Hawks are in action on ESPN, so this is definitely a second-screen viewing appointment.
Entering Week 21, the No. 5 Hawks and No. 6 Heat have matching 37-31 records with the Hawks holding the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the season series 2-1. This is Atlanta’s second matchup in three days with Washington, who has been one of the hottest teams in the league over the past five weeks.
The Hawks only have to finished tied with either Miami or Boston to avoid the Play-In Tournament, as Atlanta also won the season series with Boston 2-1. The Celtics currently occupy the No. 7 spot and have four games to try to make up two games on either Atlanta or Miami to avoid having to win a play-in game in order to secure a playoff berth.
Boston plays Miami on Tuesday in a game that will determine the head-to-head tiebreaker. Just about every game from here on out is a must-win for Boston as they look to climb past the Hawks and Heat, but none bigger than Tuesday’s game against Miami. After that game, the Celtics have this Wednesday matchup with Cleveland, followed by Minnesota and New York to close out the regular season.
Thursday, May 13
Milwaukee at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET
Toronto at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET
Race: Indiana vs. Chicago for No. 10 in East Play-In Tournament
The Pacers enter the final week of the regular season with a 2.5 game lead on the Bulls, but with the return of Zach LaVine and a three-game win streak there is hope in Chicago for the Bulls to sneak over the final four games of the regular season.
Indiana opens a five-game week against Cleveland before a three-game run against two of the East’s top three teams (Philadelphia and Milwaukee) and the defending champions (Los Angeles Lakers) before closing out the season against Toronto.
Chicago’s run is just as challenging with two games against Nets (No. 2 in East), as well as games with Milwaukee and Toronto. However, the Bulls only need to tie the Pacers in order to secure the No. 10 seed as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Pacers by winning the season series 2-1.
Friday, May 14
Denver at Detroit, 8 p.m. ET
LA at Houston, 9 p.m. ET
Race: Denver vs. LA Clippers for No. 3 seed in Western Conference Playoffs
The Clippers enter the week with a one-game lead on the Nuggets for the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference. A key advantage of the No. 3 seed is avoiding a potential matchup with the No. 1 seed in the conference in the second round.
The Clippers close out the regular season with three of their final four games coming against teams outside of the Playoff and Play-In picture: Toronto on Tuesday, Houston on Friday and OKC to close out the season on Sunday. Their only matchup with a contending team comes on Thursday against Charlotte as they are currently in the East Play-In.
The Nuggets also face the Hornets this week (Tuesday) and have two games against non-playoff or play-in teams (Minnesota and Detroit) before closing out the season against Portland in a game the Blazers may need to avoid being in the Play-In for the second straight year.
Getting wins over the non-playoff teams is a must for the Nuggets and Clippers as they battle for the No. 3 seed. The Nuggets do hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the regular season series with the Clippers 2-1, so LA doesn’t have much margin for error in the final week.