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Regular season brings drama to very end From solidifying the playoff bracket to settling the 2020-21 scoring race, there’s still plenty to play for in Sunday’s regular season finale.
After six months, the moment has finally arrived: Happy 72nd game day!
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The final day of the regular season, for the first time, is in May, and also for the first time in anyone’s memory, there’s drama here at the very end. Much has to do with positioning for the playoffs and the Play-In Tournament, where matchups are crucial and could help or hinder a team’s dreams of going deep into summer.
There is one scenario that will not happen: The Clippers and Lakers will not meet in the first round. This was assured once the Clippers sat their two stars and lost Friday to the Pistons. LA vs. L.A. would’ve been the greatest first-round matchup on paper, although anyone with a substantial stake in the playoffs — such as the TV networks — would’ve cringed at such an early showdown. Besides, that was a matchup neither team really wanted this early, either. In that situation, a Laker first-round loss would be embarrassing for the defending champs; a Clippers first-round loss would be doubly embarrassing for a team that limped out of the playoffs last season while their cross-hall rivals lifted another trophy.
Some playoff matchups are all but set: The top-seed Sixers will get the eighth-place team, and the Nets and Bucks will potentially meet in the second round. Everything else is tentative, depending on what happens Sunday.
A suspenseful ending to the regular season is precisely what the NBA wanted, especially with the Play-In Tournament making the situation even more fluid. With the exception of Cavs-Nets, Magic-Sixers, Bucks-Bulls and Clippers-Thunder, there’s plenty at stake on a final day where all 30 teams are active.
Here are the key Sunday situations:
When does the NBA season start 2020-21? Opening Night schedule, first game for each team After leaving the NBA’s “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, teams likely anticipated a bit of a layoff between seasons. Early reports indicated the 2020-21 campaign wouldn’t begin before mid-January at the earliest and March at the latest. The NBA and National Basketball Players Association bumped up the 2020-21 season start date to late December. It was largely a financial decision, as the NBA feared a January start could cost the league up to $1 billion in revenue losses. Things tend to move quickly when the word “billion” is being thrown around.
Not all of the details are ironed out just yet, but here’s what we know so far about the upcoming season. Each team will play a 72-game schedule. Complete game and broadcast schedules for the first half of the season were revealed on Dec. 4. The league will announce the second half of the schedule separately in order to maintain flexibility amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Will NBA fans be allowed to attend games?
The NBA is anticipating five to 10 teams will allow fans to be present at games to start the 2020-21 season, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. At this point, it is difficult to nail down which teams would feel comfortable letting fans walk into arenas because state guidelines may vary.
The league hasn’t provided an across-the-board answer, so expect teams to offer individual statements as the season approaches. Information on how each team will handle attendance can be found here.