Eighty-two games makes for a long season, and by late March, fans are anxious for the playoffs to begin. It is the neck-and-neck finishes between teams and individuals down the stretch that keep the games interesting.
For teams fighting to make the playoffs, every game feels like a must-win. Those that are already assured of a spot in the postseason are scratching and clawing for a higher seed, home-court advantage or a division title, which will improve their chances of advancing.
In general, divisional and conference playoff races have grown more intense over the past few decades. As the league expanded in the 1960s and 70s, the percentage of teams that make the playoffs decreased, creating greater competition for the limited spots.
The most intriguing individual races are typically for the scoring title and Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Some seasons as many as three or four players are in the hunt, and on several occasions, the scoring race has come down to the final game.