A look at the Suns' playoff possibilities entering the last game of the season

The Phoenix Suns still have so much to play for as we reach the final day of the regular season.
Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

There were several times during Friday's win against the Sacramento Kings when it looked like the Phoenix Suns' hopes to avoid the play-in tournament had all but evaporated. A loss would ensure that, since the New Orleans Pelicans had already won earlier in the night.

The Suns were down by 14 late in the third, and then down 7 with just under 5 minutes left in the game when Bradley Beal took over on both ends of the floor to stave off the tournament, for now.

The Suns still don't have control over their destiny, needing a Pelicans' loss to go along with a Suns' win to clinch the playoffs, but the win over Sacramento went a long way in making that more possible.

In their final game of the season, the Pelicans will play the Los Angeles Lakers, who now have a lot more to play for due to Sacramento's loss and a win of their own.

The Lakers now sit in the 8th spot, a game ahead of the Kings. The Kings own the tiebreaker, so the Lakers will need a win to guarantee they stay put in the 7-8 matchup. That's key for all the teams in the play-in, as it gives them two chances to get out of it with one home game if need be.

So Suns fans can rest assured knowing the Lakers will go all out to win their finale. The Suns will still have to hold up their end of their bargain and beat their final opponent: the Minnesota Timberwolves. That's not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, especially with the return of Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Suns have played Minnesota well this year, winning both of their meetings.

Unfortunately that game has taken on even greater importance for Minnesota, so don't expect them to rest their players. Due to the Denver Nuggets loss against the San Antonio Spurs (it turns out other teams have those kinds of losses too) and a win by the Oklahoma City Thunder, there is now a three-way tie for the best record in the West. Currently, the other two teams hold tiebreakers over Denver, making them the three seed.

That makes the Suns finale against Minnesota even more monumental, since they'd effectively be able to choose the T-Wolves as their first round opponent by beating them. Denver ends their regular season against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are setting records for injured players, and barring another letdown game, should be able to beat them handily.

The Thunder end their season against the Dallas Mavericks, who are locked into their seed and will be resting their star players. In all likelihood, a win against Minnesota will knock them back to to the 3-seed, and with an LA win over the Pelicans, set up a rematch next week.

If however, the Suns aren't able to win their final game, and/or the Lakers fall to the Pelicans, the Suns will be the 7th seed and host the play-in games. It's possible for any of the Lakers, Kings, or Golden State Warriors to end up as the 8th seed.

A win will advance the Suns into the playoffs and match them up with whoever ends up as the 2-seed. If they beat Minnesota in the finale, then it's likely the Nuggets will be waiting for them in that spot. If the Suns lose to Minnesota, then there's a high chance the T-Wolves will be the 2-seed.

NBA personality thinks Devin Booker could leave Suns. NBA personality thinks Devin Booker could leave Suns. dark. Next

If the Suns lose the first play-in game, they'll get another chance to host, and take on the winner of the 9-10 matchup to decide who gets to move on as the 8-seed. The Thunder have tiebreakers over the other top two teams, so a win against the short-handed Mavs guarantees them the 1-seed, and a date with the 8th.

With that wide range of possibilities, it's clear the Suns preferred path should be to win on Sunday and hope the Lakers beat the Pelicans, likely locking the Suns into a matchup with the T-Wolves. It goes without saying that every team wants to avoid the play-in, but beyond that, the Suns match up remarkably well with Minnesota.

It's only fitting that in the Wild West so much is still up for grabs heading into the last game of the season. The Suns put themselves into a tough position by losing control of their own destiny, but they were at least able to influence it a bit with that huge win against the Kings. If they handle their business and the Lakers return yersterday's favor, the Suns will find themselves in the playoffs.