A lot happened yesterday in a heavy slate of games. The Heat and Hawks both clinched their top six spots and moved past the Knicks, who are third in a three-way tie. The Celtics, who lost to the Heat, are all but guaranteed the seven seed. The Sixers failed to wrap up the 1 seed as both the Bucks and Nets drew a little closer, but it would still take one heck of a collapse to see anyone other than Philly on top by the end of the week. The Pacers also clinched their play-in spot, putting the Bulls on the brink. Out West, the Jazz moved closer to the 1 seed, the Warriors and Grizzlies kept pace in the race for the 8 seed, and the Lakers moved a little closer to that top six. The Kings kept their slim hopes alive for another day while the Suns kept the door slightly open for the 2 seed. Let’s take a look at the updated magic numbers –
Sixers = Clinched top 3 – 1 for Nets & Bucks
Nets = Clinched top 3 – 3 for Bucks, 6 for Sixers
Bucks = Clinched top 3 – 4 for Nets, 6 for Sixers
Heat = Clinched top 6 – 3 for Knicks, 4 for Hawks
Knicks = Clinched top 7 – 1 for Celtics, 3 for Hawks, 4 for Heat
Hawks = Clinched top 6 – 3 for Heat, 4 for Knicks
Celtics = Clinched top 9 – 1 for Pacers, 1 for Hornets, 6 for Knicks
Hornets = Clinched top 10 – 2 for Wizards, 3 for Pacers, 6 for Celtics
Pacers = Clinched top 10 – 3 for Wizards, 4 for Hornets, 6 for Celtics
Wizards = Clinched top 11 – 1 for Bulls, 4 for Pacers, 5 for Hornets, 7 for Celtics
Bulls = 6 for Wizards
Raptors = Eliminated
Cavs = Eliminated
Magic = Eliminated
Pistons = Eliminated
Jazz = Clinched top 2 – 2 for Suns
Suns = Clinched top 4 – 1 for Nuggets, 2 for Clippers, 5 for Jazz
Clippers = Clinched top 4 – 3 for Nuggets, 5 for Suns
Nuggets = Clinched top 4 – 4 for Clippers, 6 for Suns
Blazers = Clinched top 7 – 2 for Lakers, 3 for Mavs
Mavs = Clinched top 7 – 2 for Lakers, 4 for Blazers
Lakers = Clinched top 7 – 5 for Blazers & Mavs
Warriors = Clinched top 10 – 3 for Grizzlies
Grizzlies = Clinched top 10 – 1 for Spurs, 4 for Warriors
Spurs = Clinched top 12 – 1 for Kings & Pelicans, 7 for Grizzlies
Pelicans = 3 for Kings, 7 for Spurs
Kings = 4 for Pelicans, 7 for Spurs
Thunder = Eliminated
Timberwolves = Eliminated
Rockets = Eliminated
There are only six games today, but the stakes are pretty significant.
- Wizards @ Hawks
With a win, Washington clinches their play-in spot. They also stay within reasonable reach of the Hornets and Pacers. A loss wouldn’t put their play-in spot in much risk, but it would greatly decrease the odds that they move out of the 10 seed in the other direction. The Hawks can briefly claim the 4 seed for their own with a win. The East’s 4-6 range won’t be decided for a few more days at least, so there’s no simple cause-and-effect here. We can only say that a win is going to set the Hawks up far better than a loss would.
- Spurs @ Nets
With a win, Brooklyn keeps outlandish 1 seed hopes alive. One more Sixers win would give them the 1 seed, and both the Bucks and Nets would eliminate themselves from that chase with just one loss. The more important thing for Brooklyn is their hold on the 2 seed and second round home court advantage. If they finish 3-0, it’s theirs. If they lose a game, then the door is open for the Bucks to control their destiny instead. The Spurs are in an even more extreme position than the Wizards as the West’s 10 seed. The better comparison might be the 7 seed Celtics. Both Boston and San Antonio have magic numbers of 1 on either side of them. In other words, it’s going to be very difficult for them to move down or up in the seeding from here. With a win tonight, the Spurs officially eliminate the Pelicans and Kings. With a loss, they are officially capped off at the 10 seed.
- Celtics @ Cavs
Speaking of the Celtics…
There’s not really a whole lot to say here. With a win, the Celtics clinch the 7 seed, but they’ll clinch that at some point no matter what happens here. With a loss, they allow the Knicks to clinch the last top six spot, but that probably happens at some point regardless of tonight’s result too. The more important thing is how the Celtics look without Jaylen Brown in these last few games. Can they make any noise in the playoffs? For the Cavs, this is a chance to re-tie the Thunder for the third-worst record in the league. Whoever ends up in that third-to-last spot (the Magic are also tied with the Cavs) will join the Rockets and (likely) the Pistons with equal odds for the top pick in the draft.
- Pelicans @ Mavs
The Pelicans need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they could get eliminated anyway if the Spurs win. So that’s fun for them. For Dallas, this is big bounce back opportunity. Their thrashing at the hands of the Grizzlies last night allowed the Blazers to take hold of the 5 seed. You want to win to keep pace with them (or pass them if they lose to Utah). You also want to win to push the Lakers to the very brink. The Mavs and Blazers have control of their top six spots, but you want to wrap these things up sooner rather than later. The door needs to be closed.
- Blazers @ Jazz
The Blazers are in the exact same spot as the Mavs except that they hold the tiebreaker, which gives them a little more room for error here. The same idea still stands though. Win now so you can clinch the top 6 seed with some time to spare. The stakes are simple for the Jazz – win twice in your last three games and the 1 seed is yours regardless of what the Suns do. Given how Phoenix is playing, they might not end up needing those two wins, but a win here would all but wrap this up.
- Rockets @ Lakers
The Rockets are terrible and the Lakers need a win, so things are shaping up well for them here. A win keeps the pressure on both Portland and Dallas, and the Lakers could end up tied with one or both of them with a win over Houston and losses from them. They don’t own the tiebreaker, so there’d still be plenty of work to do, but that would really apply some pressure.
We went 2-0 yesterday for a 4-1 start to the week. Let’s keep it rolling.