NBA playoff tracker: James Harden returns for the Nets

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Yahoo Sports will keep you updated nightly on the NBA playoff race during the last two weeks of the regular season. Check back daily for the latest movement in the standings, what to watch for and teams securing their 2020-21 playoff berths.

Wednesday’s standings

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia 76ers (47-22)

2. Brooklyn Nets (46-24, 1.5 GB)

3. Milwaukee Bucks (44-25, 3 GB)

4. Atlanta Hawks (39-31, 8.5 GB)

5. Miami Heat (38-31, 9 GB)

6. New York Knicks (38-31, 9 GB)

Play-in tournament

7. Boston Celtics (35-35, 12.5 GB)

8. Charlotte Hornets (33-36, 14 GB)

9. Indiana Pacers (33-36, 14 GB)

10. Washington Wizards (32-38, 15.5 GB)

On the playoff bubble

11. Chicago Bulls(29-40, 18 GB)

Western Conference

1. Utah Jazz (50-20)

2. Phoenix Suns (48-21, 1.5 GB)

3. Los Angeles Clippers (46-23, 3.5 GB)

4. Denver Nuggets (45-24, 4.5 GB)

5. Portland Trail Blazers (41-29, 9 GB)

6. Dallas Mavericks (41-29, 9 GB)

Play-in tournament

7. Los Angeles Lakers (40-30, 10 GB)

8. Golden State Warriors (37-33, 13 GB)

9. Memphis Grizzlies (36-33, 13.5 GB)

10. San Antonio Spurs (33-36, 16.5 GB)

On the playoff bubble

11. Sacramento Kings (31-38, 18.5 GB)

Game of the night: James Hardenreturnsin Nets win over Spurs

He’s baaaaack.

James Harden had 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds off the bench in 26 minutes … but Brooklyn’s trio didn’t share the court together. Kyrie Irving suffered a facial contusion on Tuesday night and didn’t play Wednesday against San Antonio.

While it didn’t matter as the Nets won 128-116, Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant have still only played seven games together with the playoffs quickly approaching. Harden — who came off the bench for the first time since 2012 — missed 18 games with a hamstring injury.

Performance of the night: Luka Doncic

Less than 24 hours after a 133-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies where he scored a season-low 12 points, Dallas’ Luka Doncic bounced back on Wednesday against New Orleans with 33 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. “That game was obviously one of the worst I ever played,” Doncic admitted after Tuesday’s loss.

Wednesday’s statline and the 125-107 win was more in line with what the Mavericks are expecting down the stretch as the battle for playoff seeding in the West continues to be a jumbled mess with four days left in the regular season. If Dallas wants to avoid dropping into the seventh seed and the play-in tournament, Doncic will need more performances that are closer to his season average (27.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.6 assists).

What to watch Thursday

Portland vs. Phoenix (10:00 p.m. ET)

Phoenix’s window of catching Utah for the top seed in the West is quickly closing. Both the Suns and Jazz have lost two straight as Phoenix trails by 1.5 games with three games left. Portland is riding a five-game win streak and now sits in the fifth seed, holding the tiebreaker over Dallas. The Trail Blazers travel to Phoenix after defeating Utah on the road Wednesday night, 105-98.

One last thing

James Harden is back and he’s not surprised at how well he played:

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