The NBA’s playoff race has been a wild one this year, and there are still dozens of potential scenarios for the final version of this year’s NBA standings.
Still, while we may have to wait until the end of tonight’s slate to determine seeds and first-round matchups, 15 of 16 playoff spots have been clinched, leaving just one final slot available. And to make matters simpler, that last spot will be decided in a single game, with the Timberwolves hosting the Nuggets in a winner-take-all contest tonight.
The Nuggets and Timberwolves enter tonight’s action with matching 46-35 records, so the loser of the regular season finale will be a hard-luck lottery team, while the winner could end up as high as No. 6 in the Western standings. It’s the NBA’s first winner-gets-in, loser-gets-eliminated regular season finale since 1997, according to the league (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press).
Denver has recent history on its side heading into the end-of-season showdown. The Nuggets have won six consecutive games while battling for their postseason lives, beating the Thunder, Bucks, Pacers, Clippers, and Trail Blazers during that stretch — the other win during that streak came against the Timberwolves, last Thursday in Denver.
Conversely, the Timberwolves have struggled during the season’s second half after looking like a potential top-four seed earlier in the year. Since getting to 31-18 on January 22, Minnesota has posted a mediocre 15-17 record.
Of course, the Wolves were without star forward Jimmy Butler for most of that stretch, and Butler’s back now. So is Paul Millsap, who missed a huge chunk of the season for the Nuggets, and Gary Harris, who was recently sidelined for 11 games with a knee injury. In other words, with the possible exception of Taj Gibson, who is dealing with a sore neck, both teams figure to be at full strength tonight.
The Timberwolves are slight favorites in the eyes of oddsmakers, and NBA.com’s experts favor Minnesota too, but that’s more about home-court advantage than the Wolves being the better team. This game could easily go either way.
What do you think? Which team will win tonight’s game and earn a spot in the NBA postseason, the Nuggets or the Timberwolves? Vote below and then jump into the comment section to share your two cents!
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