NBA's Biggest Remaining Games as the Regular Season Grinds Down
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The regular season concludes on April 17, but there is still some very important basketball to be played.
The San Antonio Spurs are looking to hold on to its one-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first seed in the Western Conference.
For the Miami Heat, they have to find a way to get its stars rested, while maintaining the form they've been in for the past two months.
The biggest storyline in the waning days of the regular season, though, is whether the Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs or not. Currently, the Lakers are ninth in the Western Conference and are half- a-game out of eighth place.
As the regular season winds down, here are the biggest games to watch in the final nine days.
April 9: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz
While the Thunder are vying for the first seed, the Jazz are battling for their playoff lives.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Thunder visit the Jazz on Tuesday night, and there are plenty of implications surrounding the game.
For the Thunder, they trail the San Antonio Spurs by just one game for the top seed in the Western Conference.
For the Jazz, though, they only lead the Lakers for the final seed in the playoffs by a half-game. The Jazz only have four games left on its schedule, and winning all four will secure a berth into the playoffs.
The Jazz hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers via a 2-1 season-series lead.
The questions surrounding this game are endless:
Will the Thunder rest their starters, or will they go all out for the No. 1 seed?
Will the Jazz defend home court, or will they open a door for the Lakers?
The Thunder hold a 2-1 season-series lead over the Jazz. But the Jazz are desperate to defend their playoff spot. Expect a war in Salt Lake City.
April 10: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets
Both the Spurs and Nuggets have secured playoff spots.
USA TODAY Sports
Two of the top three Western Conference teams square off in Denver.
For the Spurs, this game could be huge in holding onto the first seed in the Western Conference depending on how the Oklahoma City Thunder do against the Utah Jazz.
As for the Nuggets, they are battling to retain the third seed and would likely not want to drop their remaining games and fall to the fourth or fifth seed.
At the same time, though there are significant playoff implications, both teams want to avoid any devastating injuries—it's their primary concern.
April 11: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls
The Knicks and Bulls are still jockeying for playoff position.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference on the line, the Knicks and Bulls will look to grab a big win with the regular season winding down.
The Knicks are currently in possession of the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Miami Heat by 10 games, so holding on to second place is the primary concern for the Knicks.
For the Bulls, they are currently in fifth place in the conference, but only lead the sixth-place Atlanta Hawks by one game.
If the Bulls fall to the sixth seed, they'll likely face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. While if they hold on to fifth place, they'll face the Brooklyn Nets.
The Pacers are one of the best teams in the league, so the Bulls would likely much rather play the Nets.
If the Knicks steal one on the road though, their hold on the second seed will be that much more secure.
April 12: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers need a win against the sixth-place Warriors to stay in playoff contention.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The last three games for the Los Angeles Lakers will be extremely tough. Meetings with the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets stand in the way between the Lakers and the playoffs.
For Kobe Bryant, he'll need to dig deep to pull his team through three extremely tough matchups.
However, the Warriors will likely have other plans in mind. The Warriors are sixth in the Western Conference, but only hold a one-game advantage over the seventh-place Houston Rockets.
The difference between the two seeds is huge. The sixth seed will likely face the Denver Nuggets or Los Angeles Clippers. However, the seventh seed will face either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs.
Certainly, the Warriors would rather have the sixth seed than the seventh. And they'll look to steal a game away from the Lakers at the Staples Center.
April 13: Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies
The Clippers and the Grizzlies are fourth and fifth in the Western Conference respectively.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
There are only four games on this Saturday, but the biggest, by far, is the Clippers trip to Memphis to face the Grizzlies.
The Clippers and the Grizzlies are fourth and fifth in the Western Conference, respectively. The winner of this game could be huge in deciding who will get home-court advantage if the two teams face each other in the first round.
As of now, the Clippers hold a 2-1 season-series lead over the Grizzlies. If the Clippers steal one on the road against the Grizzlies, they'll all but guarantee at least one playoff series where they'll have home-court advantage.
April 14: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers
The Spurs may look to hold on to the No. 1 seed, while the Lakers will battle for their playoff lives.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Lakers have three home games to end their season. But the games are against Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.
All those teams are jockeying for playoff position, so they'll likely deliver their best punch at the Staples Center.
For the Spurs, they'll have meetings at Golden State and against Minnesota after their meeting with the Lakers.
If the Lakers win out in their last five games of the season, the Jazz still need to lose one of their last four if the Lakers want to make the playoffs.
So any losses by the Lakers simply adds to the Jazz's hold on the eighth seed.
The best part about the Lakers' last three games is that they are at home. Kobe Bryant will need to defend home court if he doesn't want to miss the playoffs for the first time in his career.
April 15: Denver Nuggets at Milwaukee Bucks
The Nuggets and the Bucks are both battling for position in the Western and Eastern Conference, respectively.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
While this game is an interconference matchup, both teams still have plenty to play far.
The Bucks are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and hold a six-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for that spot. However, playing the Miami Heat in the first round is certainly not a desire of any team in the league.
The Boston Celtics only lead the Bucks by two-and-a-half games for the seventh seed. If the Bucks make a late-season run, they could avoid playing the Heat in the first round.
As for the Nuggets, they are the third seed in the Western Conference. But the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers are hot on their heels. A loss to a feisty Bucks team is certainly not what the Nuggets want to have happen late in the season.
If the Bucks can defend home court, pandemonium for the middle seeds in the Western Conference could ensue.
April 16: Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics
The Celtics are looking to hold on to their seventh seed.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
While both the Pacers and the Celtics have secured a playoff bid in the Eastern Conference, both teams are still jockeying for position.
The Celtics are in seventh place right now, but the Milwaukee Bucks are right on their heels. The Pacers are the third seed, but would love to make a late run at the second-seeded New York Knicks.
However, if the previous week's games show that neither team will likely shift when it comes to seeding, you could see both squads rest their stars for some much-needed rest before the playoffs.
If there are seeding implications on the line though, there could be a thriller in Boston on the season's penultimate day.
April 17: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers
If the Lakers still have hopes of earning a playoff berth, it will come down to their last game against the Rockets.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant has only missed the playoffs once since his career began.
The Rockets would love to make it twice. If the Lakers are still in playoff contention on the last day of the season, the Rockets may very well be able to shock the world.
The Lakers could have everything on the line against the Rockets. But the Rockets may still be fighting for seeding.
Currently, the Rockets are seventh in the Western Conference. They trail the Golden State Warriors by just one game though. If the Rockets want to avoid facing the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, they'll have to pass the Warriors in the standings.
A win over the Lakers could very well put the Rockets over the Warriors for the sixth seed.
This game is slated for a national broadcast on ESPN. If the Lakers need a win to secure the eighth seed, it could be one of the most-watched regular-season finales in league history.