Enormous Consequences: Suns Vs. Rockets Could Clear Up NBA Playoff Picture

Enormous Consequences is a daily look at the most impactful games in the NBA's playoff races.

Basketball is just a sport, but a sport that has enormous consequences for the losing team when it's late in the regular season and postseason berths are on the line. Twenty-four teams will be in action on Friday night and, while a loss wouldn't be devastating to all of them, there are quite a few teams that would benefit from a win to start the weekend.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

It's a weird matchup, but the most important game on Friday is probably ESPN's 8 p.m. (ET) game when the Phoenix Suns visit the Houston Rockets in a matchup that could help shape the Western Conference playoff picture. Steve Nash and the Suns are currently in 10th place in the conference -- currently outside of the playoffs looking in -- but they' are just two games behind the Rockets, a team trying to hang onto its playoff slot.

The Denver Nuggets will also be mining for a win on Friday night against a fellow playoff team, but Friday night's opponent doesn't have quite as contentious of a hold on their playoff spot. The Los Angeles Lakers are currently the third seed in the West and hoping to hold off the Clippers for the division championship, meaning the eighth-seeded Nuggets likely won't be given much room for error as they try to move themselves firmly into the playoffs.

Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Jazz have been given a seemingly easy late-season matchup with the New Orleans Hornets (8 p.m., NBA League Pass) as they look to move from ninth to eighth in the standings, while the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks will be looking for a win over the all-but-out-of-it Portland Trail Blazers (10:30, ESPN) to solidify their spot in the standings.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

The Eastern Conference playoff race isn't quite as exciting as its Western brother considering only nine teams are still eligible for the eight postseason berths. The lone team on the outside looking in is the Milwaukee Bucks as they look to catch either the New York Knicks or Philadelphia 76ers for the final spot in the playoffs.

The Bucks were gifted a winnable game on Friday night against the Detroit Pistons (8 p.m., NBA League Pass) as they look to end their skid at two losses. The Bucks' closest competition plays teams already eliminated from playoff contention, too, with the Knicks hosting the Washington Wizards (7:30 p.m., NBA League Pass) while the Sixers are set to meet the New Jersey Nets (7 p.m., NBA League Pass).

The only other game that really matters, and even this is a stretch, will be the meeting between the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic. Both would need to undergo a rather epic collapse to miss the playoffs, but the two teams are currently sporting identical 34-24 records as they jostle for the five seed in the East.

SPOILER ALERT

BOSTON CELTICS at Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers at INDIANA PACERS, Charlotte Bobcats at MIAMI HEAT, Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder

GAMES THAT DON'T MATTER

None! All 12 games on Friday night have at least one team that could potentially end up in the postseason!

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