The NBA playoffs may not tip-off for another few weeks, but Friday night's matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers will be a preview of that level of intensity.
With both teams being 37-29, Friday's game will likely decide which team has to play in the play-in as the seventh seed and which team gets extra rest ahead of the NBA Playoffs. Both teams are a full game behind Dallas for the fifth seed.
The game will also decide the head-to-head tiebreaker for the two teams, with both teams having defeated the other once this season.
If Dallas, Los Angeles and Portland enter a three-way tie, the Mavs will win the three-way tiebreaker because of winning their division. The second place would be decided on "best head-to-head winning percentage among all teams tied."
Here are the possible scenarios:
If Portland defeats Los Angeles:
Portland will win the tiebreaker over the Lakers and gain a game advantage over Los Angeles with five games remaining. The Lakers would need to overcome essentially a two-game deficit in five games to surpass Portland.
Portland would also win the tiebreaker over the Lakers in the event of a three-way tie between Dallas, Portland and Los Angeles.
If Los Angeles defeats Portland:
Los Angeles would win the tiebreaker over Portland and take a full game lead in the standings with five games remaining. Portland would need to overcome essentially a two game deficit in five games to surpass the Lakers.
Los Angeles would own the tiebreaker over the Blazers in the event of a three-way tie between Dallas, Portland and Los Angeles.
It seems extremely likely the winner of Friday's game wins the sixth seed and avoids the play-in, which means a likely matchup with either the Denver Nuggets or Los Angeles Clippers in Round 1 rather than needing to win additional games to even make the postseason.
Portland hosts Los Angeles at 7:00 p.m. on NBC Sports NW, the official home of the Portland Trail Blazers.