Five biggest storylines heading into final day of NBA regular season

    Intriguing storylines will play out as the 82-game NBA regular season draws to a close Sunday.

    Teams that finish seventh to 10th in their conferences will enter the play-in tournament, which begins Tuesday. The Boston Celtics wrapped up the first seed in the Eastern Conference long ago, but three teams — the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder — still have a shot at the top seed in the West.

    Here are five of the bigger storylines heading into the final day of the regular season.

    Will the Orlando Magic slide into the play-in tournament?

    Less than 10 days ago, the Magic (46-35) were knocking on the door of the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks could feel the young team breathing down their necks. 

    However, a 4-6 record in their last 10 games has seen the Magic tumble down the standings. 

    Heading into their final game of the season on Sunday, Jamahl Mosley’s team is tied with the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers for the fifth seed. If the Magic lose and the Pacers or Sixers win, Orlando will face the unenviable task of navigating the play-in tournament early next week. 

    Will the Milwaukee Bucks show signs of life? 

    Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a calf strain against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard missed Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder due to left adductor soreness, and Khris Middleton has been nursing an ankle injury recently. 

    With Antetokounmpo potentially out for the opening week(s) of the playoffs, the second-place Bucks (49-32) need Lillard to play at an elite level. Otherwise, the franchise could face a first-round exit for the second straight season.

    Can the Phoenix Suns escape the play-in tournament? 

    The Suns (48-33) are one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans, who sit sixth in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant and Co. will undoubtedly be looking to avoid the play-in tournament if possible. 

    New Orleans has enjoyed its first healthy season in the Zion Williamson era. As such, it has put itself in a position to gatecrash the playoffs. 

    Phoenix secured a hard-fought 108-107 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday to keep their chances of avoiding the play-in alive. They will wrap up their season against the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

    The Suns can still avoid the play-in tournament on the final day of the season. They will need to beat Minnesota and have the Lakers overcome the Pelicans. 

    Who will win the West? 

    The Nuggets fumbled their grip on the first seed in the Western Conference by dropping a game to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. Now, three teams are tied for the first seed in the West. 

    The Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets all boast a 56-25 record. Everything comes down to the final day of the season on Sunday. 

    Depending on how the final day of the season shakes out, multiple scenarios could alter who finishes as the first seed in the West. Each one of those scenarios depends on what each team does on Sunday. 

    This will undoubtedly be a fun storyline on the final day of the season, with three exceptionally talented teams fighting for the top spot. 

    Who takes the eighth seed in the West? 

    The Los Angeles Lakers control their own destiny. They have a one-game lead over the Golden State Warriors and Kings for the eighth seed. 

    If they beat the Pelicans on Sunday, they will cement their spot facing the Phoenix Suns in the play-in tournament and will only need one win to progress into the playoffs.

    That would leave the Kings and Warriors to face off, with both teams needing two wins to make the playoffs. Nevertheless, depending on how things shake out on the final day of the season, both teams still have a chance of securing the eighth seed. 

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