Three things to know: Horton-Tucker game-winner keeps Lakers top-six hope alive
The NBA regular season is in its final week, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) Horton-Tucker game-winner keeps Lakers’ top-six hopes alive
The Lakers’ hopes of climbing out of the seven seed and avoiding the play-in tournament are still alive thanks to this shot.
Talen Horton-Tucker took over in overtime Tuesday, scoring seven of his 13 points on the night in the extra five minutes. The Lakers got to OT thanks to Kyle Kuzma, who returned from a sore back and scored 23, while Anthony Davis added 20 and had to guard Julius Randle for large stretches of the night (Randle still had 31 points).
The Knicks loss, combined with Miami beating Boston, knocked New York into a three-way tie in the East (more on that in our second item on this list).
At 39-30, the Lakers are the current No. 7 seed out West and sit one game back of the Mavericks and Trail Blazers, who are tied for 5/6. The problem for Los Angeles is that both Dallas and Portland own the tiebreakers, so the Lakers are essentially two games back and need to pass one of them to get out of the play-in.
Los Angeles finishes the season with a soft schedule: Houston on Wednesday night (in a game that could be LeBron James’ return to the court), followed by a road back-to-back Saturday and Sunday in Indiana and New Orleans. All three of those are very winnable for the Lakers.
The Lakers do not control their own destiny. Even if the Lakers win out, if both Dallas and Portland go 2-1 in their remaining games, they will finish with the higher seed (if the Lakers slip up, those teams need just one win). Dallas has three games left where it will be a heavy favorite: New Orleans, Toronto, and at Minnesota.
Portland, however, finishes the season with a road back-to-back of Utah and Phoenix — two teams still fighting for the top seed in the West — and then at home to Denver.
The Trail Blazers getting two wins is far from certain, which keeps hope alive in Los Angeles that it could avoid the play-in — and get LeBron, Davis, Dennis Schroder, and the rest of the banged-up Lakers nearly a week off.
2) Miami moves up to the fifth seed, sends Boston to play-in with win
Boston’s disappointing season is now headed to the play-in games.
Miami used a balanced attack to beat Boston on Tuesday night — Tyler Herro scored 24, Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson added 22 points each. Miami has found its groove of late, winning 10 of its last 13.
The Hawks, Heat, and Knicks are all tied for the 4/5/6 seed in the East with three games to play. Miami has the toughest remaining schedule of the three — it still plays Philadelphia and Milwaukee — while the Hawks have the easiest schedule left, with Houston, Orlando, and Washington remaining.
Here’s why it matters: The 4/5 seeds will face each other in the first round, but the No. 6 seed will see either Brooklyn or Milwaukee in the first round — a much tougher road.
The middle of the East may be the most interesting race left the rest of the way in the NBA.
3) Golden State beats Suns one night after beating Jazz
Finish with the No. 8 seed and a team has to win just one of two play-in games to advance to the playoffs proper. Finish No. 9 and a team has to win two games to advance.
How badly does Golden State want that eighth slot? It just beat the Suns and Jazz on back-to-back nights. One game after Stephen Curry’s late-game heroics, it was 38 from Andrew Wiggins on Tuesday that earned the Warriors a 122-116 win.
Memphis, however, isn’t going anywhere. It blew out Dallas on Tuesday 133-104 and remains tied in the loss column with the Warriors.
The two teams face each other on Sunday in a game that could decide the 8/9 slots in the West.