Warriors' chase, Kobe's finale highlight NBA's final night
Golden State is playing for history. Kobe Bryant is playing for the last time.
On their own, either of those events would be seismic. Having them happen simultaneously only makes both seem bigger. And those games will surely overshadow some other far-from-insignificant developments such as the final postseason berth being claimed and six of the eight first-round playoff matchups finally getting decided.
It is a closing night unlike any other for the NBA.
Golden State's pursuit of the NBA's all-time best regular season record comes down to its finale against Memphis. Win, and the record belongs outright to the Warriors. Lose, and they would settle for merely a 72-10 mark - the same as the one posted by Chicago in the 1995-96 season.
Maybe it's fitting that the Warriors are chasing a record that has lasted for 20 years, given that they're sharing the spotlight with the final game of Bryant's 20-year career.
He's a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, and even in his finale Bryant will still be reaching milestones. Even if he doesn't score a single point in his last game, Bryant will cap his career with a 25.0 scoring average (24.95, rounding up, technically). And the first free throw he shoots Wednesday will be the 10,000th of his career, something only four other players have done.
Here's a look at some of what awaits around the league on Wednesday night:
PURSUIT OF 73
Memphis at Golden State, 10:30 p.m. EDT
All Golden State (72-9) has to do for the best record in NBA history is beat Memphis, a team that had a 2-1 series lead over the Warriors in last year's Western Conference semifinals.
And the Grizzlies are 0-6 against the Warriors since.
Memphis lost by 50 in its first trip to Golden State this season. Yes, 50. But this past weekend in Memphis, the Grizzlies had a real chance before falling 100-99.
Meanwhile, amid the watch for 73 wins, here's another number to watch: 400.
Stephen Curry is eight 3-pointers away from 400 for the season, and while that seems like a lot to get in one game keep in mind he's made that many from beyond the arc 15 times already this season.
Utah at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m. EDT
Kobe Bryant's farewell comes at home against Utah. Including playoffs, it'll be the 1,566th game of Bryant's career - each one in a Lakers uniform.
The Lakers are 16-65, so win or lose this will be the worst season in franchise history - the second straight year they've found a new low. That won't matter. Good tickets for the last game for Bryant were going for about $2,000 on the secondary resale markets late Tuesday, with the best seats at Staples Center going for 10 times that much.
The Jazz just won't be spectators. They have to win to have a shot at getting in the playoffs, but might be eliminated basically by tip-off. If Houston wins earlier Wednesday at home against Sacramento, the Jazz will finish No. 9 in the West regardless of how they do against the Lakers.
EASTERN CONFERENCE PICTURE
Key games: Miami at Boston, 8 p.m. EDT; Atlanta at Washington, 8 p.m. EDT; Orlando at Charlotte, 8 p.m. EDT
A pair of first-round matchups are set - No. 1 Cleveland will play No. 8 Detroit (they also meet Wednesday night in a playoff preview), and No. 2 Toronto will play No. 7 Indiana.
Everything else comes down to the final night.
Miami could be the No. 3, No. 5 or No. 6 seed, controlling its destiny for home-court - win in Boston, and the Heat are No. 3.
Atlanta will be either No. 3 or No. 4. Boston could be No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6, and Charlotte will be either No. 5 or No. 6.
WESTERN CONFERENCE PICTUR
Key games: San Antonio at Dallas, 8 p.m. EDT; Sacramento at Houston, 8 p.m. EDT; Memphis at Golden State, 10:30 p.m. EDT; Utah at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m. EDT; Denver at Portland, 10:30 p.m. EDT.
The top four seeds and home-court in the first round are locked up. Golden State is No. 1, San Antonio is No. 2, Oklahoma City is No. 3 and the Los Angeles Clippers are No. 4.
Houston will earn the right to be the No. 8 seed and play the Warriors in the first round with a win over Sacramento. If the Rockets lose, they'll need the Jazz to lose to the Lakers as well. If Houston loses and Utah wins, the Jazz will be off to Golden State as the No. 8 seed.
Seeds 5-7 in the West will go to Portland, Memphis and Dallas, in some order. All will be starting the playoffs on the road this weekend.
Not much drama left in these departments.
Curry will be the NBA's scoring champion, assuming something completely bizarre like him going scoreless and James Harden scoring at least 80 points for Houston doesn't happen. Detroit's Andre Drummond will be the rebound-per-game leader, Sacramento's Rajon Rondo will finish atop the league in assists per game and Miami's Hassan Whiteside will lead the NBA in blocks.
Curry could also finish as the league's best in steals per game - he's at 2.14 per game, just ahead of Minnesota's Ricky Rubio (2.09). And he may become the seventh player in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the foul line in a season. He'll make it on 3's easily, and comes into Game 82 shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 90.6 percent from the line.
More points will have been scored, more 3-pointers made and more rebounds grabbed this season than any other in NBA history as well.