2012 NBA Schedule: Teams' Season Finales That Will Matter Most
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The last game of the season can be a bit of a yawn for many teams in the NBA.
Some will have playoff seeding locked up and have more interest in resting key starters than vying for another win. Others will be so far out of the playoff picture, that losing and improving their odds in the draft lottery actually makes more sense than fighting for a meaningless victory.
With the 2012-13 schedule released, we now have a better sense of which season finales will matter and which ones you can skip.
Here are a few to keep your eye on.
Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets–Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Suns came awfully close to sneaking into the playoffs this year, and the upcoming season may be no different. Despite losing Steve Nash and Grant Hill to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, respectively, Phoenix made enough improvements to remain in the hunt.
Up-and-coming point guard Goran Dragic will do his best Nash imitation, while forward Michael Beasley will bring a much needed scoring ability to the frontcourt. After the Houston Rockets amnestied skilled power forward Luis Scola, the Suns jumped at the opportunity to bring him into the fold as well.
The Nuggets are almost certain to make the playoffs, but there's a good chance they'll be attempting to optimize their seeding. The difference between playing the Lakers and the Clippers could be significant to a team like Denver, so rolling into the postseason as the fifth seed or the sixth seed might matter as well.
Philadelphia 76ers at Indiana Pacers–Wednesday, April 7, 2013
No two teams better epitomize the ability of young, ensemble rosters to breakout and make some noise in a league dominated by star studded teams. Unfortunately, it's unlikely either squad will reach the end of the season with much cushion.
The Pacers could be fighting for a top four seed and home-court advantage in the first round. The 76ers may just be trying to make the playoffs.
This game will be a good test of which young standout organization has taken the biggest step forward in the Eastern Conference. It could also be important to how the postseason picture shapes up.
Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks–Wednesday, April 7, 2013
Given the decent chances that these two teams will wind up right smack in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack, we could be looking at a first round preview between the fourth and fifth seeds. The Hawks always seem to end up around there, and it wouldn't be at all surprising for the Knicks to finish just behind the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers or Brooklyn Nets.
Even if the game isn't quite that significant, there's a good chance at least one of these teams will have something for which to play. The new look Hawks may be struggling just to make the playoffs, and the Knicks are by no means a lock secure home-court advantage in that first round.
Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies–Wednesday, April 7, 2013
It seems hard to believe the Memphis Grizzlies will struggle to make the playoffs after two consecutive strong showings, but it's also hard to find a team in the West that took a bigger step back.
The Grizzlies lost sixth man O.J. Mayo and haven't replaced him with anyone of note. Meanwhile, defensive stalwart Tony Allen is a year older, and the rest of the team has to be wondering if this current configuration has what it takes to compete in a conference where the best keep getting better.
Meanwhile, the Jazz made it to the postseason last year by the skin of their teeth, and they could find themselves in a similar situation once again. Both clubs could have a lot on the line with this one.
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers–Wednesday, April 7, 2013
Yes, there's a good chance this is simply a competition to prove which side was less below-average this year, but don't write these teams off just yet. They're young, but they're talented. And, they have just enough veteran pieces to set themselves apart from rebuilding franchises like the New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings.
One of them could very well find themselves with an outside shot at a playoff berth. Andrew Bogut could prove himself surprisingly valuable to Golden State, and rookie Damian Lillard may be a dark-horse Rookie of the Year candidate for Portland.
If all goes right for one of these teams, there could be a lot on the line come April.
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