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Five must-watch games from final week of NBA season

Sam Amick joins Brother From Another to talk about the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, who has been critical of the deal and which new provisions could have long lasting effects on the league.

One week from today, the NBA postseason starts with the first play-in games.

But little is settled heading into this final week of the NBA campaign, especially out West. The league has a gift for scheduling games that matter on crucial days, and now that UConn has ended the NCAA season, the final week of the NBA season is packed with must-watch games. Starting tonight.

Here are five must-watch games this week:

1) Celtics at 76ers (Tuesday, 8 p.m., TNT)

The Boston Celtics have an outside shot at still getting the No.1 overall seed in the East (and NBA), but they will need help (particularly from the Raptors).

That starts for what is a must-win game for Boston on Tuesday night — the Celtics are two games back of the Bucks with four to play but have the tiebreaker. If the Celtics win out and the Bucks go 2-2, Boston gets the top seed (which means avoiding a potential series with Miami in the first round and Philadelphia in the second, the No.1 seed has a much easier path on paper). Boston must beat Philadelphia Tuesday, then sweep a two-game set at home against Toronto. Milwaukee closes the season at the Wizards (who have shut it down for the year), hosting the Bulls then Grizzlies, and finishing at Toronto. Do the Bucks have two losses in those four?

2) Lakers at Clippers (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ESPN)

There hasn’t been much of a rivalry between the Lakers and Clippers in Los Angeles, primarily because they haven’t played games of real consequence — there have been no playoff series matchups. This starts to change things. The winner of this game has an inside track on a top-six finish in the crowded bottom of the West and avoiding the play-in. It’s on the Clippers’ home floor, but it won’t sound like it (Clipper home games against the Lakers remain two-thirds Lakers fans).

Lakers nation views the Clippers as their annoying little brother (even if the Clippers have had the better teams for most of the last dozen years), but if Kawhi Leonard and company pull off the win it will be a slap across the face to their roommates.

3) Nuggets at Suns (Thursday, 10 p.m. TNT)

The Suns have won five in a row, haven’t lost a game when Kevin Durant is in the lineup, and beat the Nuggets last week (but while Denver sat MVP candidate Nikola Jokić due to a calf issue). This could be a second-round playoff preview of the two best teams in the West (Memphis and others might argue that characterization, but these two have my vote). If we see each team healthy and playing everyone this will be an interesting matchup and a potential postseason tone-setter.

4) Warriors at Kings (Friday, 10 p.m., NBA League Pass)

If the playoffs started today, this would be a first-round matchup — one Draymond Green wants because of the reduced travel, but one Sacramento shouldn’t because this is a tough matchup for them.

The defending champion Golden State Warriors are part of the four-team logjam in the West at seeds 5-8 (where the Clippers, Warriors, Lakers and Pelicans are all tied in the loss column at 38). The Warriors in the play-in is a real possibility, but what the Kings mostly want is another team as the sixth seed (ideally the Clippers, who likely will be without Paul George for the first round due to a sprained ankle). The Kings can help control who they play, but will Mike Brown try to get some rest for Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox over the season’s final week, or will he keep rolling out his A-Team?

5) Pelicans at Timberwolves (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. NBA League Pass)

(Note: The Lakers vs. the Suns is the potential best showdown on the schedule Sunday, LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant. However, there’s a good chance one, if not both, of those teams will be sitting key players that game depending upon what, if anything, is at stake. History suggests this game will not see all the stars out in L.A.)

This matchup on the season’s final day between the teams currently the No.8 and 9 seeds in the West could end up having massive significance in playoff seeding. The Pelicans have won 7-of-8 behind a resurgent Brandon Ingram, while Minnesota showed signs of being dangerous a couple of weeks ago but have since lost three straight (including Sunday to the tanking Trail Blazers). This game likely will have seeding influence for at least one of these teams if not both and could be a game where both teams bring it on the final day trying to set up a matchup they want. There likely will be a couple of those all-in games on the final day of league play,