What NBA playoff scenarios still play out on the final day of the regular season?

The Athletic features live coverage of the final day of the NBA regular season and the playoffs.

The 2023-24 NBA regular season ends on Sunday, and with many teams' postseason positions undecided, it's sure to be a nail-biting day.

The Western Conference has a three-way logjam between the Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets. Each team has a record of 56-25.

Denver briefly held a one-game lead in Wednesday's win over Minnesota. However, the Nuggets' 121-120 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night — and the Thunder and Timberwolves winning their respective games — created an attraction in the standings.

In the Eastern Conference, the battle for the No. 2-4 seeds will be tight. If the Bucks beat the Orlando Magic, Milwaukee no. 2 seed and has home-court advantage in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. Other than that, things get messy for the Bucs in a hurry. (More on that below.)

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers hold the key to unlocking the play-in tournament schedule, putting the Eastern 7/8 tournament date in flux.

There's a lot going on for Sunday's games. Athletic Do you include playoff and play-in tournament appearances and conference standings?

Sunday Entry Levels

Eastern Conference (*= Play-in spot earned):

  1. Celtics (63-18)
  2. Bucks (49-32)
  3. Knicks (49-32)
  4. Cavaliers (48-33)
  5. Magic (46-35)
  6. Pacers (46-35)
  7. 76 players (46-35)
  8. Heat (45-36)
  9. Bulls* (39-42)
  10. Hawks* (36-45)
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Western Conference (*= Play-in place taken):

  1. Thunder (56-25)
  2. Timberwolves (56-25)
  3. Nuggets (56-25)
  4. Clippers (51-30)
  5. Mavericks (50-31)
  6. Pelicans (49-32)
  7. Suns (48-33)
  8. Lakers* (46-35)
  9. Kings* (45-36)
  10. Warriors* (45-36)

Go deeper

Warriors, Kings or Lakers: Who will get the eighth seed in the West?

The playoffs enter Sunday

Play-in tournament

Heat at 76ers, winner to face Bucks
Lakers at Suns, winner to face Timberwolves

Hawks at Bulls, loser eliminated
Warriors at Kings, the loser is eliminated

Hawks-Bulls Winner at Heat-76ers Loser, winner to face Celtics
Warriors-Kings winner Loser at Lakers-Suns, winner to face Thunder

Playoff matches

(1) Celtics vs. (8) Play-in winner

Winner of (2) Bucks vs. (7) Heat/76ers

(3) Knicks vs. (6) Pacers

(4) Cavaliers vs. (5) Magic

(1) Thunder vs. (8) play-in winner

Winner of (2) Timberwolves vs. (7) Suns/Lakers

(3) Nuggets vs. (6) Pelicans

(4) Clippers vs. (5) Mavericks

Sunday Schedule (Times ET)

  • Hawks at Pacers (1 p.m.)
  • Wizards at Celtics (1 p.m.)
  • Raptors at Heat (1 p.m.)
  • Bulls at Knicks (1 p.m.)
  • Hornets at Cavaliers (1 p.m.)
  • Bucks at Magic (1pm)
  • Nets at 76ers (1 p.m.)
  • Nuggets at Grizzlies (3:30 p.m.)
  • Trail Blazers at Kings (3:30 p.m.)
  • Jazz at Warriors (3:30pm)
  • Mavericks at ET (3:30 pm)
  • Pistons at Spurs (3:30 p.m.)
  • Suns at Timberwolves (3:30 p.m.)
  • Rockers at Clippers (3:30 p.m.)
  • Lakers at Pelicans (3:30 p.m.)

Follow along AthleticNBA play-in tournament and playoff bracket blog to follow Sunday's action.

Scenarios impacting the Western Conference's No. 1 seed

Denver, Oklahoma City and Minnesota — all with identical 56-25 records — lack absolute control in their quest for the West's top seed.

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Below are the scenarios to determine the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City ranks first: If all three win or all three lose. In both scenarios, Minnesota would be second and Denver would be third.

Top seed Denver: If it wins and the other two teams lose, Minnesota will be second and Oklahoma City third.

Minnesota best seed: If it wins and Denver loses, Oklahoma City will be second.

Oklahoma City ranks first: If it wins and Minnesota loses.

Denver advances to second: If it wins and one of the other two teams loses. Under any circumstances, if only one of the three teams loses, that team will finish third.

Setting the stage for the East's Nos. 2-4 seed chase

If Milwaukee wins: The Bucks are the No. 2 seed, the Knicks are the No. 3 seed and Cleveland is the No. 4 seed.

If Milwaukee loses, New York wins, Cleveland loses: New York is 2nd, Milwaukee is 3rd and Cleveland is 4th.

If Milwaukee loses and Cleveland and New York both win: New York is 2nd, Cleveland is 3rd and Milwaukee is 4th.

If Milwaukee loses, New York and Cleveland both lose: Milwaukee is 2nd, New York is 3rd and Cleveland is 4th.

If Milwaukee and New York lose and Cleveland wins: Cleveland is the second seed, with Milwaukee third and New York fourth.

to go deeper

Go deeper

The Bucks are getting a 'good burn' in the playoff position against the Thunder, an opponent yet to be determined

Setting the stage for the East's No. 5-8 seeds

If all lose or all win: Orlando is fifth, Indiana is sixth, Philadelphia is seventh and Miami is eighth.

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If Orlando wins: The Magic are the No. 5 seed until Indiana loses and Philadelphia wins, in which case the Magic are the No. 6 seed.

If Orlando loses and Miami wins: Orlando would be No. 8 if Indiana also didn't lose, while the Magic would be No. 7.

If Indiana wins: The Pacers will be ranked sixth until Orlando loses, in which case the Pacers will move up to fifth.

If Philadelphia wins: Sixes are no worse than the seventh seed. If Indiana loses, the 76ers move up to fifth. If Indiana wins and Orlando loses, the 76ers move up to sixth.

If Miami loses: It is the No. 8 seed.

If Miami wins and Orlando wins: Miami is No. 8.

If Miami wins and Orlando loses: Miami will be the Southeast Division champion and ahead of Orlando. If that happens and either Indiana or Philadelphia lose, Miami will move up to sixth. If that happens and both of those teams lose, Miami will move up to fifth. Otherwise, Miami would be seventh.

Required reading

(Photo of Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokić: Bart Young / NBAE via Getty Images)

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