This thing is far from over.
The cementing of postseason seedings on Monday night also came with unexpected shifts within a flurry of late-night action.
As some teams rested in wait for the playoffs, other teams energized the standings, all setting up what should be a spectacular finish for Wednesday's season-finale schedule.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets earned guarantees while the Houston Rockets exchanged placement with the Golden State Warriors for more favorable standing out West.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers won't breathe relief until all 82 games are played, as the Utah Jazz continue to fight.
Al Jefferson scored 22 points for Utah in the win.
Did you think the Los Angeles Lakers drama wouldn't go wire-to-wire?
The Utah Jazz, with a 96-80 road win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, will extend the Lakers' postseason uncertainty into Wednesday's season finale.
The Jazz now trail the Lakers by one game, with one game remaining on each team's schedule.
The Jazz need a win and a Lakers loss to finish as the eighth seed for the second consecutive season. Utah owns the tie-breaker after winning the season series against Los Angeles.
Since Utah's road game against the Memphis Grizzlies begins at 8:00 p.m. ET, and the Lakers' hosting of the Houston Rockets is set for 10:30 p.m. ET, Los Angeles will likely know whether or not it needs a win prior to tip-off.
But Utah controls its own destiny.
Utah was just 11-27 on the road before winning two consecutive, Monday at Minnesota and April 7 at the Golden State Warriors. So despite the poor record away, the Jazz bring some confidence headed to Memphis.
Sometimes the only hero that counts is the one who goes second.
Monday night's dance of game-winners began with the lead of Monta Ellis, who lifted from behind the arc with 14.2 seconds remaining to deliver a four-point play and give the Bucks a 111-110 lead.
HUGE shot by Monta Ellis! Clippers and Grizzlies fans are loving this!
— NBA Guru (@NBAGuru) April 16, 2013
Ellis finished with 38 points, but it was Ty Lawson who stole the night.
Guarded by Ellis, Lawson drove hard right, stepped back quickly from just inside the elbow, and completely lost the overplaying Ellis in the process. Lawson drilled the wide-open eight-footer with 9.3 seconds left and the Nuggets eventually held on to the 112-111 victory.
So yeah, Ty Lawson looks healthy.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 16, 2013
The biggest storyline, though, is that the Nuggets must now feel more confident entering the postseason. Lawson looked plenty healthy, finishing with 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes.
The Nuggets sit with the No. 3 spot, but the win clinched at least the fourth seed, as they sit one game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies with one game to play. Denver owns the tiebreaker against Memphis, but the third seed remains in balance.
The current No. 4-seeded Los Angeles Clippers play Portland Tuesday, and if they lose the Nuggets clinch the third spot. But if Los Angeles wins, there is still a chance that the Clippers, as division winners, get the tie-breaker and Denver finishes with the fourth seed ahead of Memphis.
Meanwhile, the Bucks have lost five in a row. Of course none of that matters as they have already guaranteed their position as the No. 8 seed set to feed the Miami Heat.
All it took was 60 wins.
The Oklahoma City Thunder took care of business against the lowly Sacramento Kings, 104-95, to secure the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.
San Antonio's loss to the Warriors Monday means the Thunder will finish with the conference's best record outright, although they owned the tiebreaker anyway.
OKC still doesn't know which team they will face in the eighth spot. Depending on how things shake out, they could host the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz or Houston Rockets.
Durant scored 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and added eight assists and seven rebounds. Save for a miracle, Durant will not be able to overcome Carmelo Anthony to win his fourth consecutive scoring title.
Anthony sat out Monday and will likely sit the finale, meaning Durant would have to score 70 points against Milwaukee Wednesday to win the scoring title:
Brooks on KD and the scoring title: "I give Kevin a lot of credit .. If he was really focused on getting it, he could've gotten it. Easily."— Royce Young (@dailythunder) April 16, 2013
Scott Brooks half-jokingly says Durant has "no shot" to get 70 points and secure his fourth scoring title in the season finale Wednesday.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) April 16, 2013
LeBron James sat out on Monday
LeBron James has nothing left to prove in Cleveland—or this regular season.
No fans ran on the court with emotional please-come-back T-shirts on Monday as the Eastern Conference's locked-in No. 1 seed, the Miami Heat, kept their talent in street clothes once again.
Who was left on that Heat roster? Well, enough to still knock off the Cavaliers, 96-95.
The Heat started a backcourt of Norris Cole and Mike Miller, while Rashard Lewis, Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony rounded out the frontcourt.
It was Cole's late-game thievery, swiping the ball away from Cleveland's Kyrie Irving with 2.2 seconds left, that secured the Heat victory. Lewis scored a game-high 19 points for Miami.
James was listed on the injury report with a sore right hamstring and Wade was listed with a sore right knee.
Miami caps off their season Wednesday with a home game against the Orlando Magic.
No one is budging in the Eastern Conference unless the Chicago Bulls make a move.
The Bulls started in that upward direction with a 102-84 road win against the Orlando Magic.
Chicago is chasing the Atlanta Hawks for the fifth seed—playing for the right to travel to face the fourth-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round rather than going on the road to play the third-seeded Indiana Pacers.
If the Bulls win their finale against the Washington Wizards, they'll need the Hawks to lose just one of their final two games to take the tiebreaker and the fifth spot.
Oh, and there's still this:
Are the Bulls holding out hope that Derrick Rose can come back? "Absolutely," Carlos Boozer said. "He makes that big of a difference."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 16, 2013
All other seeds in the Eastern Conference are settled.
The New York Knicks, who have already clinched the East's No. 2 spot, lost 106-96 to the Charlotte Bobcats but sat Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton and played just seven guys.
The Houston Rockets have been inconsistent all season, and Monday's 119-112 loss in Phoenix is a sign that this team could be folding at the wrong time.
The Rockets' loss, paired with Golden State's win over San Antonio, drops the Rockets into the seventh spot in the West by one game. Houston could fall back to the eighth spot with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Wednesday's finale.
Likely to finish as the last game of the season, a 10:30 p.m. ET start on ESPN, the Rockets-Lakers matchup could carry serious implications—or mean little.
If the Warriors, who start at the same time in Portland, win against the Blazer, then the Rockets won't be able to move back into the sixth spot. And if the Rockets, currently a game ahead of the Lakers, slip on Wednesday, they lose the tie-breaker and fall into the eighth spot.
As it stands, not much has to happen for James Harden to return to Oklahoma City to face his former Thunder team.
But it could go the other way. If the Warriors lose and the Rockets beat the Lakers, then Houston faces the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round. If both the Warriors and Rockets win, then Houston opens up against second-seeded San Antonio.
And remember, the Utah Jazz still exist and will be big the biggest Rockets cheerleaders. Again, the Jazz need to win in Memphis and need a Lakers loss to take the eighth seed.
The Rockets needed Monday's win to avoid all that confusion. Harden finished 5-of-18 for 16 points with two assists and four turnovers.
Harden misses a quick 3. He's 0 for 7 from beyond the arc. Just does not have it at all tonight.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) April 16, 2013
The Houston Rockets' stumble is the Golden State Warriors' gain.
The Warriors move a full game ahead of Houston for the Western Conference's No. 6 seed with the 116-106 home win against the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors once again control their own destiny.
The difference in seeding is a road matchup against the No. 3-seeded Denver Nuggets rather than the No. 2-seeded Spurs.
Golden State does not hold the tiebreaker over the Rockets, but a win in Portland Wednesday would clinch the spot.
Maybe Damian Lillard won't show up.
LA is a pretty cool place... I don't wanna leave— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 16, 2013
Stephen Curry again made his push for at least the postseason All-Star team, as he finished with 35 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He shot 7-of-13 from three-point range.
Curry has made 268 threes this season and now trails Ray Allen by one for the NBA record.
First 200 games: Stephen Curry 447 threes, 44%; Ray Allen 310, 37%— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) April 16, 2013