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NBA Tuesday review: Western Conference set for big finish

We’re in the final few weeks of the NBA regular season, and so far just three teams have clinched their spot in the playoffs.

This wide-open campaign doesn’t have a standout title favorite and features some battles that are set to go to the wire. 

Tuesday night’s games brought more twists in the race for the top six in the Western Conference, where 3.5 games split fourth and 12th. 

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets continue to do their best to throw away their grip on sixth. 

Let’s take a run through the best of Tuesday’s games, looking at some standout stars and the impact on the standings.

OKC stop Kawhi to cut the gap on Clippers

The LA Clippers can’t seem to get their season together, with Paul George departing with an injury in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

That clash was a close one throughout, with the pair going into the fourth with the Clippers leading by a point. In the end, OKC won 101-100, with some strong defending on Kawhi Leonard closing out the game. 

That win lifts the Thunder up to seventh, where they are 1.5 games shy of the fifth-placed Clippers. 

The Thunder were expected to endure another tanking season and push for Victor Wembanyama, but they’ve caught the league off guard this term. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was their star again, as he dropped 31 points to get OKC over the line, while they had good contributions from their bench. 

Given that depth was meant to be one of the Clippers’ strengths, the Thunder did well to hold firm against them. 

There’s still a huge battle left for OKC across their final 10 games, as they need to pip the Warriors or Clippers to sixth. 

If they can’t do that, then the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves or LA Lakers could meet them in the Play-in. As it stands, the Thunder are +160 to make it into this season’s Play-offs.

Nets can’t keep their grip on sixth

So far the top three in the East are the only sides to have booked their postseason place, while the Cleveland Cavaliers took a step towards joining them with their 115-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets. 

The Cavs sit in fourth but they’re a few games shy of the top three, who each look like serious title contenders. 

The Cavs aren’t at the same level, they’re +3300 outsiders for the championship. However, this has been a good season for Cleveland as they are set to improve on last term, where they lost out in the Play-in to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks. 

Donovan Mitchell has made them into a top-four seed and they won’t just end their Play-off drought, they can finally win a series without LeBron James for the first time since 1993. 

However, the Nets continued their slide with another defeat and they’re now basically neck and neck with the Miami Heat. 

The fight for sixth in the East doesn’t have the same energy as the West, with the Nets seeing the lead they had built up by February slowly eroded after losing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. 

Elsewhere, the Hawks kept their faint hopes of finishing sixth alive with a 129-107 win over the Detroit Pistons. 

They’re just three games shy of the Nets, but time is against them at this point in the season.

Related NBA News

NBA: Eastern Conference update

NBA: Western Conference update

Lifeline for Pelicans

Back in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans kept their postseason hopes alive with a 119-84 win over the San Antonio Spurs. 

The Pelicans have dropped like a stone in recent months but Brandon Ingram’s 32-points were enough to see them blow out the tanking Spurs. 

The Pelicans stay in 12th with that win but they are only a game shy of eighth, leaving them priced at +360 to make the postseason. 

The Pelicans upset the Clippers in the Play-in last term after a late run, so they can’t be counted out.

Kings lose ground on second

The Sacramento Kings look all set to end the longest postseason drought across the US major leagues. 

Having not made the Play-offs since 2006, they can’t be too unhappy to sit third in the West. 

However, the Kings fell 1.5 games shy of the second-placed Memphis Grizzlies with their 132-109 loss at home to the Boston Celtics. 

The Celtics, who have already secured their Play-off berth, took control of the game in the second quarter and didn’t look back. 

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 63 points in a much-needed strong display from the pair. 

The Celtics haven’t been quite at their best in recent weeks but this win over a high-flying western side shows they can get it together when the Play-offs begin.

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