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NBA Thursday review: Suns guarantee home court playoff advantage

The NBA regular season comes to a close over the weekend and there were five games on Thursday, including a key clash in Salt Lake City and a potential playoff series preview between two ambitious teams in the West.

We've had a run through what happened and what it means for the teams involved.

Suns secure fourth seed by downing Denver

Phoenix Suns guaranteed home court advantage in the first round by securing fourth seed in the West on Thursday with a 119-115 win over Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets had themselves locked in top seed in their last game and could have been forgiven for easing off ahead of their own postseason run, but they kept the game competitive and held a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter. 

Kevin Durant starred for the Suns with 29 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – to help Phoenix claim a 119-115 victory.

The Suns have now managed seven wins in a row and will head into the playoffs as one of the form teams, while Denver will probably be satisfied with their own display after keeping the game close despite the fact it was essentially a dead-rubber as far as their own ambitions were concerned. 

With the Nuggets locked in for top seed and the Suns sure of fourth, these teams will meet again in the conference semi-finals if both manage to get through their first round assignments.

The Suns are +450 to win the NBA Championship outright and Denver are +750.

Jazz see postseason dreams ended

Utah Jazz enjoyed an excellent start to the season despite losing star duo Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert but their form evaporated and on Thursday they saw their hopes of snatching a play-in spot ended by Oklahoma City Thunder.

OKC held a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter but Utah did manage to cut that lead to just one point, before the Thunder again pulled clear to record a 114-98 win at the Vivint Smart Arena in Salt Lake City.

Utah's Kris Dunn had a joint game-high 22 points, but OKC pair Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey made the difference on Thursday. Gilgeous-Alexander had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Giddey posted 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Jazz can no longer finish in the top 10 in the West and their journey will come to an end at the conclusion of the regular season.

There are a few positives they can take from the campaign, however, as Will Hardy enjoyed a decent first season in charge after replacing long-serving coach Quin Snyder. 

Offseason recruit Lauri Markkanen experienced a career resurgence as he earned a first All-Star call and rookie Walker Kessler impressed.

The win was huge for OKC, trading at +12500 to win the Western Conference, as they currently hold 10th spot in the West and they now have the advantage over Dallas Mavericks. 

OKC take on Memphis Grizzlies at home in their final game of the season, while the Mavs have a home game against Chicago Bulls and a trip to San Antonio Spurs to contend with and will probably need to win both if they are to reach the play-in tournament.

Miami keep top six hopes alive

Miami Heat sit in seventh spot in the East but they could still secure a top six seed and automatic playoff qualification after a 129-101 win at Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

The Sixers are already locked in for third seed so the scoreline shouldn't really be seen as any indication of what could happen should these teams meet in the postseason, but Miami managed a convincing win to keep their own top six aspirations alive.

Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler both had 24 points for the Heat, who sit one game behind Brooklyn Nets in sixth. Both teams have two games remaining and Miami probably need to win both to move ahead of the Nets. If the Heat do finish in seventh, they will face Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament.

Victories for Cavs and Spurs

Cleveland Cavaliers had already reached the playoffs and set up a first round series with New York Knicks before their game at Orlando on Thursday, while the Magic had already been eliminated from postseason contention.

Cleveland are -175 to win their first round series, while the Knicks can be backed at +155.

The Cavs warmed up for their playoff bid with a 118-94 despite the absence of a number of key men, as they took the chance to offer a few reserve players some minutes going into the playoffs.

In the West, San Antonio Spurs overcame Portland Trail Blazers 129-127 in a game between two already eliminated outfits.

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