Bring on the Play-In Tournament!

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·11 min read
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The final day of the regular season was certainly a busy affair, as all 30 teams were in action. And there wasn't much clarity at the beginning of the day either, as many of the playoff seeds were not locked in. While some teams were playing with postseason/play-in tournament in mind, others were taking one last shot at improving their draft lottery odds. Here's a look at some of Sunday's most important happenings.

Sunday's Scores
Knicks 96, Celtics 92
Pacers 125, Raptors 113
Wizards 115, Hornets 110
Suns 123, Spurs 121
Warriors 113, Grizzlies 101
Hawks 124, Rockets 95
Nets 123, Cavaliers 109
76ers 128, Magic 117
Heat 120, Pistons 107
Bulls 118, Bucks 112
Timberwolves 136, Mavericks 121
Lakers 110, Pelicans 98
Thunder 117, Clippers 112
Trail Blazers 132, Nuggets 116
Jazz 121, Kings 99

LeBron again looks sharp, but tweaks his ankle

LeBron James, playing in his second game since returning from another stint on the sideline due to his right ankle, played well in his 27 minutes Sunday night. Shooting 11-of-22 from the field and 1-of-2 from the foul line, James finished the Lakers' win over the Pelicans with a line of 25 points, one rebound, six assists, three steals and two 3-pointers. But there was cause for concern, as he had to leave the game with a little over six minutes remaining the fourth quarter after landing on Nickeil Alexander-Walker's foot and tweaking the ankle. Following the game James said that he would be fine, which is good to hear since the Lakers will be back in action Wednesday night against the Warriors.

Frank Vogel was able to use his preferred starting lineup for just the third time this season, with James being joined by Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond. Also interesting here was Marc Gasol playing 27 minutes, while Montrezl Harrell was a DNP-CD. Those two are essentially "matchup" plays; while Harrell may be a better fit behind Drummond in a potential series against the Suns, Gasol may be the choice should the Lakers get the Jazz in a 1/8 matchup.

Los Angeles still had a chance of earning the 6-seed, thus avoiding the play-in tournament. But Portland put an end to that drama rather early in its game against the Nuggets, scoring that game's first 11 points and coasting to a 16-point win. So the Lakers will host the Warriors, with the winner drawing Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. The loser of the Warriors/Lakers matchup will host the winner of Wednesday's matchup between the Spurs and Grizzlies.

Pelicans' Hayes suffers right leg injury

In that same game New Orleans center Jaxson Hayes had to depart during the second half after injuring his right leg. The concerning thing here is that, while being helped off the court by teammates, he was unable to put any weight on the leg. In his 20 minutes, Hayes finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal, and he's a player worth monitoring this offseason. While the absence of Steven Adams did free up additional minutes for Hayes, the minutes were essentially an even split between he and Willy Hernangomez (19/13/1/0/2 in 30 minutes).

Adams and the Thunder agreed to a two-year extension back in November that pushes his contract through the 2022-23 season, but Hernangomez will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Regardless of the severity of the injury suffered Sunday night, this will be a big offseason for Hayes.

Tyler Herro injured late in blowout

The Heat rested the majority of their key rotation players for Sunday's win in Detroit, as the team knew its fate before tipoff. Due to the combination of its loss to Milwaukee Saturday night, and the Knicks' win over the Celtics Sunday afternoon, Miami was locked into the 6-seed (Atlanta held the head-to-head tiebreaker). Duncan Robinson (8/2/1/2/1 with two 3-pointers) started but played just 19 minutes, while Tyler Herro (16/6/11 with one 3-pointer) played 35. But there was a concern late, as Herro tweaked his ankle in the game's final minute. And he wouldn't have been on the court had KZ Okpala (17/5/2/2/2 in 34 minutes) not been ejected after picking up a flagrant-2 with 1:50 remaining. Herro's injury didn't sound too serious, and the Heat will have some time to rest ahead of their series against the Bucks.

Curry goes off, clinches scoring title

Give Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks (18/2/6 with one 3-pointer in 30 minutes) a lot of credit for the work he did in defending Stephen Curry during the first half of Sunday's game. The NBA scoring champion shot 6-of-14 from the field, which kept Memphis within striking distance at the intermission. But Curry went off in the third, scoring 17 points, and the game changed for good when Brooks fouled out with 6:12 remaining and the score tied at 91. Golden State went on to win, wrapping up the 8-seed in the West, and Curry finished with a line of 46 points (16-of-36 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), seven rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block and nine 3-pointers in 40 minutes played.

Curry was also responsible for seven turnovers, for which Brooks deserves some credit. But there's truly no stopping Curry, who can go off at a moment's notice. Andrew Wiggins (21/10/0/1/1 with two 3-pointers), Draymond Green (14/9/9/1/2) and Jordan Poole (15/3/1/2 with three 3-pointers) played well for the winners, while Jonas Valanciunas (29/16/1/1) led the way for Memphis. Grayson Allen's injury a short time back meant that Jaren Jackson Jr. (14/7/2/3/2 with two 3-pointers) was finally moved back into the starting lineup, while Desmond Bane (8/0/1/2/1 with two 3-pointers in 29 minutes) and De'Anthony Melton (4/2/0/2 in 21 minutes) both come off the bench. Unless you're dealing with Brooks (who wasn't a great fantasy option this season) or Ja Morant (16/3/9/1 with one 3-pointer in 38 minutes), there wasn't much to be had in the way of consistent value from the Grizzlies' other guards.

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!

Beal returns as Wizards complete ascent to 8-seed

Washington, which got off to a brutal start to the season, managed to lock down the 8-seed in the East with its win over Charlotte Sunday afternoon. What's even better for the Wizards is that Bradley Beal, who missed the three games prior due to a strained left hamstring, was able to make his return to the lineup. A true game-time decision, Beal looked a bit rusty during the first half but got going in the second, scoring 20 of his 25 points (8-of-27 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs) after the break. Beal was also responsible for six rebounds, four assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes played. Next up is Boston Tuesday night, so we'll see how the hamstring responds.

Russell Westbrook (23/15/10/1 with two 3-pointers) recorded yet another triple-double, and his assist-to-turnover ratio over the last four games has been a sight to behold. While he dished out a total of 63 assists during that stretch, Westbrook was responsible for just 11 turnovers. In the two games prior he racked up a total of 14 turnovers (with 32 assists). Robin Lopez (18/6/1/1) gave Washington 27 quality minutes off the bench, while Daniel Gafford (8/5/0/0/1) played 16 and starter Alex Len (one rebound) five. Scott Brooks clearly wants to play all three centers, but he may have to alter that approach in Boston, especially if the Celtics remain without Robert Williams (turf toe).

Kyrie joins storied club as Nets clinch 2-seed

Brooklyn had seen enough of its big guns on the court together Saturday to rest James Harden for Sunday's win over the Cavaliers, while Kevin Durant (23/8/13 with one 3-pointer) and Kyrie Irving (17/6/2/3/3 with three 3-pointers) played 29 minutes apiece. And Irving made history on Sunday, as he became just the fourth player in league history to have a 50/40/90 season while also averaging at least 25 points per game. The other three: Durant, Curry and Larry Bird.

Brooklyn was once again without the injured Joe Harris, who missed the Nets' final three games due to a sore left hip. He'll have some time to get healthy ahead of the playoffs, while Bruce Brown (12/4/4/2/2 in 26 minutes) filled the resulting void in the starting lineup. Brooklyn will know its opponent on Tuesday, as they'll draw the winner of the Wizards/Celtics play-in tournament matchup.

Thunder get out-tanked by the Clippers

Given how bad Oklahoma City was down the stretch, due in large part to the team going all-in with its younger players (those who were healthy, at least), Sunday's matchup with the Clippers was an interesting one. While Los Angeles still had a shot at catching Denver and grabbing the 3-seed in the West, it appeared that they had no desire to potentially meet the Lakers ahead of the Western Conference Finals. So which team would "lose" in its attempt to game the system? The Thunder, who won by five thanks to an Aleksej Pokusevski (29/8/2 with six 3-pointers in 41 minutes) 3-pointer with 48.8 seconds remaining. Moses Brown (24/18/3/0/7) sealed the win with a tip dunk on Oklahoma City's next possession, with the Clippers showing no desire to defend despite trailing by just three points at the time.

Pokusevski was placed in the primary playmaker role for long stretches Sunday, as fellow rookie Theo Maledon (three points, four assists and one 3-pointer) played just 13 minutes. While Poku didn't offer much with regard to setting up his teammates as, in addition to the two assists he recorded seven turnovers, he was able to get to his spots more often than not. Josh Hall played 43 minutes in his final "audition" of the season, putting up 25 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one 3-pointer.

Los Angeles played this one without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris, Rajon Rondo and Nicolas Batum, who were all given the night off for rest reasons. Ivica Zubac started but was on the floor for a grand total of six seconds, giving a foul and being replaced by Serge Ibaka (12/7/2/0/1 with one 3-pointer in 19 minutes). Ibaka and Patrick Beverley (11 points, four assists and one block in 19 minutes) were able to get some solid reps as they both recently returned from injury, but the majority of the available minute went to the Clippers' younger players.

Timberwolves' Edwards makes final case for ROY

Anthony Edwards' improvement since the All-Star break has been mentioned numerous times, and rightfully so. While the Timberwolves weren't a factor in the playoff conversation, the play of their first overall pick is something that the franchise can feel good about heading into the offseason. And Edwards capped his rookie campaign with another good performance, as he finished Sunday's win over the Mavericks with a line of 30 points (10-of-21 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs), four assists, two blocks and five 3-pointers in 38 minutes.

Edwards appeared in all 72 games for the Timberwolves (55 starts), and after the break he averaged 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 45.4% from the field. While Charlotte's LaMelo Ball has a good case for Rookie of the Year, so does Edwards. Fantasy-wise Ball had the better season, but that obviously isn't how the official Rookie of the Year voting is handled. Based upon the way that both performed, the only shock would be if someone other than Edwards or Ball won the award.

Play-In Tournament Matchups

Eastern Conference (Tuesday)
6:30 PM: 10-seed Charlotte at 9-seed Indiana
9:00 PM: 8-seed Washington at 7-seed Boston

Western Conference (Wednesday)
7:30 PM: 10-seed San Antonio at 9-seed Memphis
10:00 PM: 8-seed Golden State at 7-seed LA Lakers