With just three weeks left in the NBA regular season, the playoff picture is starting to take shape in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. With the new play-in tournament for this season including seeds 7-10 in each side, there are more teams fighting for position and trying to get a shot at making the playoffs. Because of that, there are more and more important games to watch for in the final month of the regular season. Here, we’re going to highlight the top matchups from each conference each day throughout the week.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers — Monday, May 3
Update: The Lakers somehow got a win over the Nuggets despite LeBron James being held out to rest on the back-to-back. L.A. is now in the 5-hole in the West but it’s still tight between the Mavs and Blazers. The Nuggets had a chance to move closer to the Suns and Jazz, plus clinch a playoff berth. Now, they’ll have to wait until next game.
The Nuggets and Lakers enter the week at 4-5, respectively, in the West standings. These two teams could end up playing each other in the first round after meeting in the West Finals last season.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks — Tuesday, May 4
Update: The Bucks swept the two-game series with the Nets and moved to within 3.0 games of first place in the East. The Bucks only trail the Nets by 1.5 games for second place now as well. The top of the East isn’t safe from Giannis and the Bucks. It’s going to be a tight race the rest of the way and Milwaukee has an easy schedule.
The race for first place in the East is likely going to go down to the wire. This is the last chance the Bucks have to directly gain ground on the Nets this season. This is also the second of a back-to-back for these teams after playing each other on Sunday.
New York Knicks vs. Denver Nuggets — Wednesday, May 5
Update: The Nuggets basically went coast-to-coast on the Knicks for an easy win on Wednesday night. New York remains 0.5 games up on the Atlanta Hawks for 4th place in the East. Meanwhile, the Nuggets are back even with the Los Angeles Clippers for 3rd place in the West.
The Knicks are fighting off the Hawks, Celtics and Heat for the 4-seed in the East. The Nuggets are doing the same in the West, trying to hold off the Lakers and Mavericks. We also have two award favorites in Nikola Jokic (MVP) and Julius Randle (Most Improved Player) facing off.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers — Thursday, May 6
This is the final Battle of Los Angeles this season. The Lakers have Anthony Davis back and could get LeBron James back at some point. The Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard, who has been sidelined with a foot injury. The Lakers are trying to jump into the top 4 while the Clippers have been making a bid for the top seed in the West.
Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz — Friday, May 7
The Jazz are trying to hold onto the No. 1 overall seed in the West. The Nuggets are trying to avoid having to play the Lakers in the first round. Denver lost Jamal Murray to a torn ACL a few weeks ago but has maintained some success. The Jazz have also been without All-Star G Donovan Mitchell due to a sprained ankle. He may end up returning for this matchup. We’ll see.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers — Saturday, May 8
The Spurs and Blazers both enter this week in the play-in tournament. San Antonio is down at the 9 seed while Portland is at the 7 seed in the West. Both teams may not be able to avoid the play-in, but can help their chances of making the postseason by remaining or jumping up into the 7-8 slots.
Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics — Sunday, May 9
Depending on how the week goes for both teams, this could have a huge impact on who ends up avoiding a matchup with the top 3 teams in the East — the Sixers, Nets or Bucks. It’s also got a bit of narrative being a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.