NBA schedule 2014: Pacers, Thunder get started early on Sunday

USA TODAY Sports

The final Sunday of the regular season starts strong with a possible NBA Finals preview in Indiana.

It may be the last weekend of the NBA regular season, but we haven't saved all the good matchups for the postseason just yet. Sunday features some pretty sweet games, highlighted by a nationally televised afternoon game that might preview this year's Finals. Let's dig in.

Appetizer: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers

ABC; 1 p.m. ET

The national audience gets an early treat Sunday as Oklahoma City visits Indiana. Playing side-by-side with the final round of the Masters, your TV should feature some pretty fantastic athletic competition this afternoon.

The Pacers have had their issues lately, but this game was likely circled on their schedule months ago. The only other time these teams played this season, the Thunder mopped up the floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 118-94 blowout win. That was just Indiana's third loss, 21 games into the season.

Now things don't look so hot for the Pacers, but a quality victory over the Thunder would do a lot to get things back on track. Coming off a 12-point loss to the Heat on Friday, this feels like a clear opportunity for Indiana to make a statement that it's not falling back in the NBA contender hierarchy.

Main Course: Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks

League Pass; 7:30 p.m. ET

New York needs another win to keep up with Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the East, but the Bulls have been rolling lately. This might be a meaningful game for the Knicks, but Chicago plays pretty much every game like it's a Game 7.

The Bulls have won seven in a row entering Sunday, taking advantage of an easy late-season schedule. Teams like Orlando and Boston don't have much to play for these days, leaving them vulnerable to Chicago's hyper-intense style of play.

The Knicks, meanwhile, have also played better of late. Coming off a big win over Toronto on Friday, New York has won 13 of 18, keeping its postseason hopes alive after being nearly 20 games below .500. The final three games come against postseason squads, though -- Chicago, Brooklyn, Toronto -- and they're practically all must-wins.

If New York somehow reaches the playoffs, that effort continues with a win on Sunday.

Dessert: Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers

League Pass; 9 p.m. ET

Both teams already have their spots in the Western Conference playoffs locked up, but the Warriors still need to lock down the No. 6 seed before the end of the season. One more victory would guarantee the spot for Golden State, which would then avoid Oklahoma City and San Antonio in the first round.

Then again, a matchup against Chris Paul and the Clippers to open the playoffs isn't exactly forgiving. More than anything, the Warriors just need to focus on playing at their highest level before the end of the season, making sure the ongoing external distractions don't impact the product on the court.

As for Portland, the team has woken from its midseason slumber to win seven of its past eight. An easier schedule has helped with that, but wins are wins and the recent hot streak has allowed the Blazers to strengthen their hold on the fifth seed.

With homecourt advantage for a first-round matchup against Houston still up in the air, more wins could get the Blazers into that No. 4 spot. That would send any Game 7 from that series to Portland instead.

Other games

Raptors vs. Pistons, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBATV

Magic vs. Nets, 6 p.m. ET, NBATV

Timberwolves vs. Kings, 9 p.m. ET, League Pass

Grizzlies vs. Lakers, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBATV

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