Photo: Matthew Stockman (Getty)

Tonight, anyone watching the NBA will get to see the closest possible regular-season equivalent of a play-in game when the Denver Nuggets travel to Minnesota to play the T-Wolves for the last playoff spot. Both clubs are 46-35, and Minnesota leads the season series 2-1, though a 100-96 win last week kept the Nuggets’ surging playoff hopes alive long enough to set up this climactic meeting.

Denver has won six straight against playoff competition and now has to face a Jimmy Butler-led Timberwolves team that’s been pretty hard to beat at home. If the Nuggets win, they finish seventh and get the Warriors. If the Wolves win, they could finish seventh or eighth.

That game isn’t the only meaningful one on tonight’s schedule. Typically, there are a few things up in the air on the final day of the season—word to Mark Madsen—but tonight’s 12 games will determine a number of playoff seedings and lottery odds. As this NBA graphic shows, it’s going to get messy.

The next two most important games are between Utah and Portland, who are both 48-33, and San Antonio and New Orleans, who both share the same record with the Thunder at 47-34. Here are all the possible seedings based on every scenario in play tonight, which we’ll explain below.

Advertisement

Jazz Win, Pelicans Win, Wolves Win

3. Jazz
4. Blazers
5. Pelicans
6. Thunder
7. Spurs
8. Wolves

Jazz Win, Pelicans Win, Nuggets Win

3. Jazz
4. Blazers
5. Pelicans
6. Thunder
7. Nuggets
8. Spurs

Jazz Win, Spurs Win, Wolves Win

3. Jazz
4. Blazers
5. Spurs
6. Thunder
7. Wolves
8. Pelicans

Jazz Win, Spurs Win, Nuggets Win

3. Jazz
4. Blazers
5. Spurs
6. Thunder
7. Nuggets
8. Pelicans

Blazers Win, Pelicans Win, Wolves Win

3. Blazers
4. Thunder
5. Jazz
6. Pelicans
7. Spurs
8. Wolves

Blazers Win, Spurs Win, Wolves Win

3. Blazers
4. Thunder
5. Jazz
6. Spurs
7. Wolves
8. Pelicans

Blazers Win, Pelicans Win, Nuggets Win

3. Blazers
4. Thunder
5. Jazz
6. Pelicans
7. Nuggets
8. Spurs

Blazers Win, Spurs Win, Nuggets Win

3. Blazers
4. Thunder
5. Jazz
6. Spurs
7. Nuggets
8. Pelicans

The winner of Jazz-Blazers gets the three seed. If the Blazers lose, they’ll finish fourth, but if Utah loses, they will probably finish fifth if the Thunder win. Oklahoma City is playing the Grizzlies tonight, and we will have to assume a win there for simplicity’s sake, unless Russell Westbrook’s quest for 16 rebounds and a triple-double average somehow costs OKC what should be an easy win. OKC can slide up and steal Utah’s fourth spot if the Jazz lose tonight and the Thunder beat the Grizzlies. That game’s in Portland, which the Thunder have to be pretty happy about.

Advertisement

The loser of Spurs-Pelicans will have to face either the Warriors or the Rockets in the first round, which is a golden incentive not to drop tonight’s game. If the Pelicans win, they’ll finish fifth if Utah beats Portland and sixth if the Blazers win. San Antonio will then finish seventh if the Wolves win, and eighth if the Nuggets win. If the Spurs win, the Pelicans drop to eighth, and San Antonio ends up fifth if the Jazz win and Sixth if the Blazers win. My head hurts.

In the East, things are a bit simpler. The Sixers clinch third if they beat the Bucks or if the Cavs lose to New York. Cleveland needs both games to break its way to steal Philly’s spot. Neither team can slip past fourth, and Indiana is already locked into fifth. As for the Bucks, they’ll clinch sixth if they beat Philly, but they would also almost guarantee themselves a date with the Cavs, so they’d probably rather lose and take their chances elsewhere. Milwaukee can finish seventh of eighth with a loss, depending on what happens to the Heat, who host the Raptors tonight, and the Wizards, who travel to Orlando. Here’s a breakdown of six through eight.

Bucks Win, Heat Win, Wizards Win,

6. Bucks
7. Heat
8. Wizards

Bucks Win, Heat Win, Wizards Lose

6. Bucks
7. Heat
8. Wizards

Bucks Win, Heat Lose, Wizards Win

6. Bucks
7. Wizards
8. Heat

Bucks Win, Heat Lose, Wizards Lose

6. Bucks
7. Heat
8. Wizards

Bucks Lose, Heat Lose, Wizards Lose

6. Bucks
7. Heat
8. Wizards

Bucks Lose, Heat Win, Wizards Lose

6. Heat
7. Bucks
8. Wizards

Bucks Lose, Heat Lose, Wizards Win

6. Wizards
7. Bucks
8. Heat

Bucks Lose, Heat Win, Wizards Win

6. Heat
7. Wizards
8. Bucks

Elsewhere, the Kings and Bulls will be trying their damndest to lose to the Rockets and Pistons respectively, for a Kings win coupled with a Bulls loss ties them for the league’s sixth-worst record. If the Magic lose, they’ll tie Dallas and Atlanta for the league’s third-worst record, so they’ll probably do everything short of trotting out Frank Vogel in order to drop the game against Washington. If the Knicks lose and the Nets win, New York will pass Brooklyn in the tank race, which makes Lakers-Clippers somehow the only meaningless game, which, when you consider Andre Ingram’s kick-ass story, means you have to watch all 12 games tonight. Please have a report on my desk in the morning, thank you.