The regular season of the 2017-18 NBA season has almost reached its conclusion. Over the weekend, playoff fates of some Western Conference teams and the Eastern Conference seeding will be settled. The preview will look at which of the games over the weekend are the most important.
Key matchups on Friday
Cleveland at Philadelphia
The Sixers have won 12 games in a row and are in a tie with Cleveland entering Thursday, which means the Cavs will be either .5 games ahead or behind Philly when they tip off Friday night on NBA TV. Cleveland will be on the second night of a back-to-back, while the Sixers should be well-rested.
On paper, the loss of Embiid should give the edge to Cleveland, but since The Process’ injury, the Sixers have played outstanding defense. Any time Lebron is involved in a big game, it is hard to go against him, and Friday night’s contest should be a thrilling one between the defending conference champion and the upstart Sixers looking to dethrone them.
New Orleans at Phoenix/Minnesota at Los Angeles Lakers
The games are put together because they are important to New Orleans and Minnesota for the same exact reason. Both NO and Minnesota are fighting it out for the final playoff position, and every single game at this point matters.
If either team falters in what should be an easy win, it opens the door for Denver or even the Clippers to steal the final spot at the very end of the year. Phoenix is actively trying to lose and many of the key Lakers are out due to injury, which should lead to comfortable wins for both the Pelicans and Timberwolves
Key matchups on Saturday
New Orleans at Golden State
Golden State is locked into the 2 seed, so this game does not matter for the standings. They have not been all that sharp over the last few weeks causing some concern about their team.
New Orleans has to hope that the Warriors continue to not care all that much about winning, but the Golden State victory at Oklahoma City cannot make them feel comfortable. The Pelicans are in a must-win situation making Anthony Davis an exciting player to watch on Saturday.
Portland at San Antonio
The game in San Antonio is similar to the one in Golden State from the standpoint that Portland has the three seed already and San Antonio has to keep winning. The Spurs look like a safe bet to make the playoffs because they are in 5th place at this moment, but they are only 0.5 games ahead of Minnesota and New Orleans. Avoiding the 7 or 8 seed seems very important for every team out west.
Key matchup on Sunday
Utah at Los Angeles Lakers
The theme for the weekend is that playoff hopefuls need to beat the bottom dwellers on the road. Utah is just ahead of San Antonio and the rest of the teams chasing the playoffs.
Utah controls its destiny for having home court in the first round of the playoffs, and as a young, inexperienced team it will be vital to their success. In Salt Lake City, the Jazz have a .667 winning percentage, but they are sub .500 on the road. They need this win to make sure a potential game 7 is in Utah.
Mathematically speaking, seven Western Conference teams are fighting for 5 playoff spots, and this weekend will go a long way to determining who is in when the regular season ends. Similarly, the Eastern Conference seeds are still in question. As the regular season concludes, there are plenty of meaningful games to watch this weekend.