And then there were two. We have six games tonight, and then every team in the league will finish their season on Sunday. As of this morning, we have just three of the twenty playoff seeds set, and there’s also some drama at the bottom for lottery positioning. Let’s take a look at how things are stacking up.
Sixers = Clinched 1 seed
Nets = Clinched top 3 – 2 for Bucks
Bucks = Clinched top 3 – 3 for Nets
Hawks = Clinched top 6 – 1 for Heat, 2 for Knicks
Heat = Clinched top 6 – 2 for Knicks, 3 for Hawks
Knicks = Clinched top 6 – 2 for Hawks, 3 for Heat
- Tiebreaker reminders: Knicks > Hawks, Hawks > Heat, Heat > Knicks; if 3-way tie – Heat > Knicks > Hawks. Magic numbers only take 2-way tiebreakers into account – for example, Hawks would guarantee they finish ahead of Heat in 2-way tie with win in their last game, but they would drop to third in this group if everyone wins out.
Celtics = Clinched 7 seed
Hornets = Clinched top 10 – 1 for Wizards, 2 for Pacers
Pacers = Clinched top 10 – 2 for Wizards, 3 for Hornets
Wizards = Clinched top 10 – 2 for Pacers, 3 for Hornets
Bulls = Eliminated
Raptors = Eliminated
Cavs = Eliminated
Magic = Eliminated
Pistons = Eliminated
Jazz = Clinched top 2 – 1 for Suns
Suns = Clinched top 2 – 3 for Jazz
Nuggets = Clinched top 4 – 1 for Clippers
Clippers = Clinched top 4 – 2 for Nuggets
Mavs = Clinched top 6 – 1 for Blazers
Blazers = Clinched top 7 – 1 for Lakers, 2 for Mavs
Lakers = Clinched top 7 – 3 for Blazers, 4 for Mavs
- Tiebreaker note here: Both Dallas and Portland > LA. In case of three-way tie, would be Portland > Dallas > LA
Warriors = Clinched top 9 – 2 for Grizzlies
Grizzlies = Clinched top 9 – 2 for Warriors
Spurs = Clinched 10 seed
Kings = Eliminated
Pelicans = Eliminated
Thunder = Eliminated
Timberwolves = Eliminated
Rockets = Eliminated
We looked at the full lottery picture yesterday, so I won’t go into the odds/tiebreaker details again. But here’s the new reverse standings after last night’s games.
- Pistons (3 games back)
- Thunder (4)
- Magic (4)
- Cavs (5)
- Timberwolves (5.5)
- Raptors (10)
- Bulls (13.5)
- Pelicans (14)
- Kings (14)
- Wizards (16)
- Spurs (16.5)
- Pacers/Hornets (16.5)
- Grizzlies/Warriors (21)
Note that the 11-14 spots will be filled by whoever misses out on the true playoff bracket by losing in the play-in, so it might not necessarily be the teams listed here.
- Bulls @ Nets
With a win and a Bucks loss, the Nets can clinch the 2 seed. With a win, they keep control of their own destiny heading into tomorrow regardless of what the Bucks do. With a loss, that control shifts to Milwaukee. It’s relatively simple here, and the Bulls have nothing to play for after Washington’s win last night. If they lose, they stay in the 8 slot instead of falling back into a tie with the Kings and Pelicans, so they might give this one away (while pretending to try of course).
- Hornets @ Knicks
- Lakers @ Pacers
There’s a lot on the line for all of the teams involved here, and I’m going to combine them for the sake of keeping the Hornets and Pacers together here. The Hornets control their own destiny for that key 8 seed. In other words, it’s theirs if they win their last two games. With just one loss, however, the door is wide open for both the Pacers and Wizards. Here’s the rundown for Charlotte –
- Win out: 8 seed
- Lose @NY but win @Was: 8 seed or 9 seed
- Lose out: 9 seed or 10 seed
- Win @NY but lose @Was: 8 or 9 seed
Where they finish in the last three scenarios will depend on the Pacers (Washington’s only remaining game comes against Charlotte). The Pacers control their own destiny for the 9 seed but could move up or down. Using the bullets above as a guide, here’s how things can shake out –
- First scenario: Indiana 2-0 or 1-1 = Hornets, Pacers, Wizards; Indiana 0-2 = Hornets, Wizards, Pacers
- Second scenario: Indiana 2-0 = Pacers, Hornets, Wizards; Indiana 1-1 = Hornets, Pacers, Wizards; Indiana 0-2 = Hornets, Wizards, Pacers
- Third scenario: Indiana 2-0 = Pacers, Wizards, Hornets; Indiana 1-1 = Wizards, Pacers, Hornets; Indiana 0-2 = Wizards, Hornets, Pacers
- Fourth scenario: Indiana 2-0 = Pacers, Hornets, Wizards; Indiana 1-1 or 0-0 = Hornets, Wizards, Pacers
So that’s how the 8-10 situation shakes out in the East. Next up is the Knicks (v. Charlotte today), who are in that key 4-6 range. The tiebreakers are given above, but to summarize:
- Knicks over Hawks
- Hawks over Heat
- Heat over Knicks
- Heat over Knicks over Hawks in three-way tie
The Knicks control their own destiny when it comes to that 5 seed. If they win out, they’re finishing above the Hawks no matter what, and that means the 5 seed would be their floor. If they lose, however, they’re suddenly going to need some help. With the Hawks hosting the Rockets and the Heat visiting the Pistons tomorrow, you don’t want to end today relying on those two to lose to finish above the 6 seed.
Then there’s the Lakers, who, as a reminder, are visiting the Pacers tonight. Los Angeles has already been locked out of the 5 seed, but there is some hope that they can catch the Blazers and take the 6 seed. It’s a pretty simple formula –
Lakers win @ Pacers + Lakers win @ Pelicans + Blazers loss v. Nuggets (tomorrow) = Lakers in the 6 seed
Anything less keeps Portland in that spot, so the Lakers need to win tonight or they’ll head into tomorrow’s finale already guaranteed a spot in the play-in.
- Celtics @ Timberwolves
The Celtics are the 7 seed regardless of the next two days’ results, but they could use some tune-up as they adjust to life without Jaylen Brown. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, need to lose if they want to keep hope of a bottom three spot alive.
- Suns @ Spurs
The Spurs are locked into the 10 seed. The Suns need to win to keep 1 seed hopes alive. Much like the Lakers, they need two more wins (both in San Antonio) and a Jazz loss to the Kings tomorrow to grab the top spot, but it’s a spot they can still end up with as long as they win tonight. Lose, and you’re locked in as the 2 seed.
- Heat @ Bucks
We’ve gone over the general idea of the Heat’s situation with the Knicks above. Like the Knicks, they control their own destiny for the 5 seed. Only Atlanta is in a position where they can win out and still end up as the #6 team in the East. This is the big test for the Heat with the Pistons coming up tomorrow. A loss in this one would drop Miami to the 6 seed if the Knicks win, and it would put them in need of a lot of help tomorrow. The Bucks could use this win too. The basic idea for them is that they need three positive results out of the four combined games they and the Nets play today and tomorrow. In other words, the Bucks need to go 2-0 and have the Nets go 1-1 OR they need to go 1-1 and have the Nets lose out. Either option hands the Bucks the 2 seed. If the Nets win out (or both teams go 1-1 or 0-2), the 2 seed is theirs instead. A loss would likely be fatal for Milwaukee here.