While those permutations may be complex, both teams realize they want to enter the postseason with momentum.
The Spurs will need help to claim the Southwest Division crown Wednesday night when they host the Hornets, who will finish as either the sixth or seventh seed in the Western Conference.
San Antonio (53-28) is tied with Houston for the Southwest lead, but the Rockets own the tiebreaker. The Spurs must beat New Orleans (49-32) and hope Houston loses at Dallas for San Antonio to win the division and gain the No. 3 seed in the West.
If that happens, the Spurs will meet the Mavericks while the Hornets will take on Denver in the first round. San Antonio, though, will guarantee itself the fifth seed - and no home-court advantage - with a loss Wednesday.
New Orleans gains the sixth seed with a win or a loss by Dallas. The Hornets will be seventh with a loss and a win by the Mavericks.
With so much still to be decided, the Spurs are looking to close the regular season with a fourth straight win. They cruised past Golden State 101-72 on Monday as Drew Gooden had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Tim Duncan added 16 and 13.
“We need our rhythm, we need some confidence, and we need to play well against some of the elite teams in the West,” said Duncan, who returned after sitting out Sunday’s game against Sacramento to rest his aching knees. “Whatever happens, happens. We’re going to go in there (against New Orleans) and try to take that game and figure out what happens.”
The mood is a bit different for New Orleans, which lost 86-66 at Houston on Monday. The Hornets missed a chance to clinch the No. 6 seed, but coach Byron Scott was more upset with the effort that resulted in his club’s lowest point total of the season.
“It is very disappointing,” Scott said. “I think most of our guys in that locker room think that it’s like a light switch, that you can just turn on when the playoffs start. It’s not going to happen, it’s just not.”
Superstar point guard Chris Paul had just nine points and seven assists, marking the first time all season he failed to reach double figures in at least one of those categories. The Hornets have lost five of their last seven games.
“We got smashed,” Paul said. “It was embarrassing. They beat us in just about every way possible.”
Hornets center Tyson Chandler is expected to play for the first time since March 16. He has missed New Orleans’ last 15 games with inflammation in his left ankle, but Scott intends to play him 20-25 minutes Wednesday.
The Hornets have won two of three this season against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year, with the home team winning each meeting. Paul is averaging 27.7 points and 8.3 assists against San Antonio in 2008-09.
He will be matched up against Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who is shooting 60.9 percent and averaging 21.7 points versus the Hornets this season.