NBA playoff tracker: Lakers still need help entering final day of regular season

·4-min read

Yahoo Sports will keep you updated nightly on the NBA playoff race during the last two weeks of the regular season. Check back daily for the latest movement in the standings, what to watch for and teams securing their 2020-21 playoff berths.

Saturday's standings

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia 76ers (48-23)

2. Brooklyn Nets (47-24, 1 GB)

3. Milwaukee Bucks (46-25, 2 GB)

4. New York Knicks (40-31, 8 GB)

5. Atlanta Hawks (40-31, 8 GB)

6. Miami Heat (39-32, 9 GB)

Play-in tournament

7. Boston Celtics (36-35, 12 GB)

8. Charlotte Hornets (33-38, 15 GB)

9. Washington Wizards (33-38, 15 GB)

10. Indiana Pacers (33-38, 14.5 GB)

Western Conference

1. Utah Jazz (51-20)

2. Phoenix Suns (50-21, 1 GB)

3. Denver Nuggets (47-24, 4 GB)

4. Los Angeles Clippers (47-24, 4 GB)

5. Dallas Mavericks (42-29, 9 GB)

6. Portland Trail Blazers (41-30, 10 GB)

Play-in tournament

7. Los Angeles Lakers (41-30, 10 GB)

8. Golden State Warriors (38-33, 13 GB)

9. Memphis Grizzlies (38-33, 13 GB)

10. San Antonio Spurs (33-38, 18 GB)

Game of the night: Lakers hold serve in LeBron's return

The Lakers still need some help to avoid the play-in tournament, where the Golden State Warriors potentially await, but they got pretty much everything they could want in the penultimate day of the regular season.

After missing six straight games due to a nagging ankle issue, LeBron James again returned to the court and looked impressive against the Indiana Pacers. In 28 minutes, James posted 24 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in a 122-115 win.

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The Lakers have now won four straight and done everything they can do to stay alive in the sixth-seed race since their costly win against the Blazers on May 7. Will it be enough? More on that below.

Performance of the night: Julius Randle's triple-double fuels Knicks

What else is there to stay about Julius Randle? He's a bona fide star, the Knicks are good and it's hard to think of a season in recent history in which this team was more joyful to watch.

Randle's line for an overtime win against the Hornets: 33 points (12-of-25 shooting), 13 assists and 10 rebounds. 

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With their win, the 40-31 Knicks remain in control of the East's fourth seed entering Sunday. They could still fall as low as the sixth seed with a loss and wins by the Hawks and Heat on Sunday, but this season is already a win.

What to watch Sunday: Everything

There will be 15 games and plenty still on the line in the final day of the regular season. While the playoff and play-in fields in the East are already decided, the West has quite a bit to figure out.

The whole situation basically revolves around the Lakers, currently tied with the Blazers at 41-30 but in seventh place due to the tiebreaker. The Blazers clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Nuggets (9 p.m. ET), while the Lakers get that sixth-place spot with a win over the Pelicans (9 p.m. ET) and Blazers loss.

The shadow of the Lakers looms over the higher part of the standings as well, as the Clippers and Nuggets will basically be playing to see who doesn't have to face the defending champs. Both teams sit at 47-24 in a tie for third place, with the Nuggets holding a tiebreaker. A Nuggets win guarantees a matchup with the Blazers or Lakers, while the Clippers can clinch a series against the Mavericks with a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (9 p.m. ET).

Both conferences also have key games to decide the play-in matches. Buckle up.

One last thing

There were plenty of moments worth highlighting — Tamika Catchings inspiring, Vanessa Bryant eulogizing — but it was a man who wasn't being inducted (yet) who may have received the best tribute.

Tim Duncan's induction speech was naturally going to mention Gregg Popovich missed the Spurs' game on Saturday to watch the enshrinement of his greatest player. Duncan took the crowd all the way back to when he was drafted to show what kind of man Popovich is:

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"You showed up after I got drafted. You came to my island. You sat with my friends, my family. You talked with my dad. I thought that was normal. It's not. You are an exceptional person. Thank you for teaching me about basketball, but even beyond that, teaching me it's not all about basketball. It's about what's happening in the world, your family, everything."

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