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What's at stake on final day of NBA regular season?


The 2023-24 NBA regular season concludes Sunday with all 30 teams in action. There'll be plenty to play for, as 15 of the 20 playoff and play-in tournament seeds remain undetermined. Here's a look at what's on the line.

Eastern Conference

x - Clinched league's best record
y - Clinched playoff berth
z - Clinched play-in berth

Only the Boston Celtics can kick back and relax, having locked up the Association's top record nine days ago. The rest of the East doesn't have the luxury of resting their top players since any given result could have major playoff implications.

Fight for No. 2 seed

While the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers have each secured home-court advantage for the opening round of the postseason, they all remain in the running for the No. 2 seed.

The Bucks' objective is simple: a win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday gives them the 2-seed. But a loss opens the door for the Knicks or Cavs to leapfrog Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.

New York can capture the No. 2 seed with a win over the Chicago Bulls coupled with a Bucks loss. Meanwhile, the Cavs' lone route to the East's second-best mark requires a victory over the Charlotte Hornets and both Milwaukee and New York to fall in their regular-season finale. The Bucks' hopes to finish second aren't entirely over with a defeat, but they'd need both the Knicks and Cavs to lose to get there.

All three teams will undoubtedly treat Sunday's matchups with the utmost importance, as finishing second or third means avoiding a probable second-round clash with the Celtics.

Seeds 5-8

Julio Aguilar / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Magic, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat could all finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the conference.

Orlando is the most likely to finish atop the group, though a win against Milwaukee on Sunday doesn't necessarily guarantee the Magic the fifth seed. Philadelphia can jump to the top of the four-team pack regardless of what the Magic do if they take care of business against the Brooklyn Nets and the Pacers lose to the Atlanta Hawks.

Indiana's path to the No. 5 seed involves a victory over Atlanta alongside a Magic defeat. Even the Heat have an outside chance of overtaking the trio of teams ahead of them. Miami can only finish fifth if they complete a back-to-back sweep of the Toronto Raptors and the Magic, Pacers, and 76ers all stumble on the final day of the regular season. A loss to the Raptors automatically sends the Heat to the play-in tournament as the No. 8 seed.

Western Conference

y - Clinched playoff berth
z - Clinched play-in berth

The West's playoff picture is also coming down to the wire, with only the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks locked into their playoff seeds. Sunday's results may not eliminate a club from postseason contention, but they could ultimately determine how far a team advances.

Historic battle to sit atop West

For the first time in NBA history, three teams enter Game 82 with identical records and a shot at the conference's No. 1 seed. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Denver Nuggets are all in the mix to end Sunday atop the West, but none fully control their destiny.

Oklahoma City has a slight advantage over Minnesota and Denver, as Mark Daigneault's squad is guaranteed the West's top seed with a win over the Mavericks and a T-Wolves loss to the Phoenix Suns. The Thunder will also clinch the West's best record if Oklahoma City, Minnesota, and Denver collectively win or lose their respective final tilts.

The T-Wolves must defeat the Suns to keep their bid for the No. 1 seed alive. Should they manage that, they only need an Oklahoma City or Denver loss to re-assume the top spot in the conference. Meanwhile, the defending champion Nuggets can only obtain home-court advantage until the Finals with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies and losses from both the T-Wolves and Thunder.

Avoiding the play-in

With the Mavericks and Clippers stuck in the 4-5 slots, only one spot remains in the West's top six. The New Orleans Pelicans can avoid the play-in tournament altogether by beating the Los Angeles Lakers in their last home contest. However, a Pelicans loss to go along with a Suns win allows the latter to sneak past.

Seeds 8-10

Andrew D. Bernstein / National Basketball Association / Getty

Los Angeles, the Sacramento Kings, and the Golden State Warriors can all finish eighth, ninth, or tenth, depending on how Sunday shakes out.

The Lakers are in the driver's seat to finish eighth. They can give themselves up to two chances to reach the eight-team playoff field by taking down the Pelicans. A Lakers loss combined with Kings and Warriors defeats also gets the job done.

Sacramento can seize the No. 8 seed with a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and a Lakers loss. Meanwhile, the Warriors' sole course to surpassing the Lakers and Kings is a win over the Utah Jazz, with help from both the Blazers and Pelicans.

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