By the time the Los Angeles Lakers take the court against the Sacramento Kings at 10:30 p.m. ET, the West's 2011 NBA Playoffs bracket could be completely set. Should the Dallas Mavericks lose to the New York Hornets, the Lakers would be locked into the No. 2 seed in the West, and depending on whether the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Milwaukee Bucks, the Mavericks would fall to No. 3 or No. 4.
Here's a look at the schedule of games that matter.
8 p.m. ET start
Hornets vs. Mavericks, ESPN. If Dallas loses, the picture will be much, much more clear heading into the late games. The Lakers would be able to rest their stars and still grab No. 2, and no one will care if the Memphis Grizzlies tank against the Clippers, because New Orleans will have clinched the No. 7 seed.
Bucks vs. Thunder, local TV/League Pass. This game only matters if the Mavericks lose. If Dallas wins, OKC is locked into No. 4. If Dallas loses and OKC wins, the Thunder will be No. 3. This game has no bearing on No. 2 or Nos. 7 and 8, though.
10:30 p.m. ET start
Lakers vs. Kings, local TV/League Pass. If Dallas has won, the Lakers need a win to claim No. 2. Otherwise, it will be No. 3 for the Lakers. Also, this game doubles as potentially the final game in Sacramento Kings history. It is sold out. So there's that.
Grizzlies vs. Clippers, ESPN. This game only matters if the Hornets lose. If they do, the Grizzlies need to lose to become the No. 8 seed. It became apparent Tuesday, when Lionel Hollins held out Zach Randolph and Tony Allen against Portland, that the Grizzlies want to be the No. 8 seed. If the Hornets lose and Grizzlies win, Memphis will be the No. 7 seed and face either the Mavericks or Lakers, and the Hornets will face the Spurs.
There is also some jockeying around the league for win-loss advantages over contenders from the other conference for potential NBA Finals matchups, but there's a dead simple rule of thumb for that: more wins are better.
Stay tuned Wednesday night for our coverage of the final day of the NBA regular season.