Happy Wednesday. Yesterday was a 5-8 NBA day, which isn’t ideal. The Bucks missed coverage by a point. The Thunder blew coverage in the fourth; they led by 10 at half and by 4 after three and failed to cover +4.5. The Cavs missed coverage by a point. The Spurs missed coverage by 2 points. The Celtics (ML) lost by 2. The Raptors and Hornets missed their over by 3 points. On the wins side, the Pistons covered by half a point and the Nuggets and Rockets went under by 3 points. Every other winner hit by at least 7 points. Just one of those days. On to the next. But first, a look at what last night’s results mean for the standings…
The East’s top 5 is pretty much set –
1) The Bucks all but clinched the 1 seed with a win over the Wizards and a Celtics loss to the Sixers. The magic number is down to 1. Clinching the East will also clinch the league’s best record after the Nuggets’ recent struggles. A win over the Bulls or a Raptors win in Boston gets the job done tonight, but Milwaukee will have four more chances for another win or Celtics loss if neither of tonight’s games go their way. The Nets, Heat, Hawks, Raptors, and Bulls are all possible first round opponents, and it will be Knicks/Cavs in the second round.
2) That means the Celtics are likely going to end up with the 2 seed. They clinch it with one more win or one more Sixers loss, and that’s a very likely outcome with six more combined chances for the two to happen. The Nets, Heat, Hawks, Raptors, and Bulls are all possible first round opponents for Boston too, and it will be Sixers/Nets/Heat in the second round.
3) The Sixers have clinched a top three seed by virtue of owning the tiebreaker with the Cavs. They will play either the Nets or Heat in the first round, and then they’ll face a very tall task in taking on the Celtics without home court advantage.
4) The Cavs beat the Magic last night, but their regular season results don’t matter from here on out. They’ll be the 4 seed.
5) The Knicks will be the 5. They’re going to have the tiebreaker by virtue of a better record against East playoff teams (they would be tied with the Nets by head-to-head, division record, and conference record if Brooklyn wins out and they lose out). Onto Cleveland.
The last guaranteed playoff spot is down to two teams –
6) The Nets lost at home to the Timberwolves last night, which keeps the door open for the Heat. Brooklyn is a game up and owns the tiebreaker with three games to go, which means their magic number is 2. They need to win in Detroit tonight. Do that, and things are pretty much locked up.
7) The Heat won in Detroit yesterday. They need Brooklyn to lose two of three to have a shot. They also need to win in Philadelphia tomorrow. Lose that game, and they’ll have a foot-and-a-half in the play-in.
The rest of the play-in teams are set, but seeding isn’t finalized quite yet –
8) The Hawks picked up a huge win over the Bulls. They’re still tied with the Raptors, but they own the tiebreaker there. That puts the magic number at 3 with three to play. One thing to watch – Atlanta is 1-3 against Miami this year and would likely need to go to Miami in the 7-8 game.
9) The Raptors still have a shot at the 8 seed. They just need to win one more game than the Hawks over the last three. Atlanta’s schedule – Wizards, Sixers, @Celtics. Toronto’s schedule – @Boston, @Boston, Milwaukee. That’s advantage Hawks, especially with the tiebreaker already theirs.
10) Losing to Atlanta all but kills the Bulls’ chances at being anything but the 10 seed. They have two games to make up with just three to go. A loss in Milwaukee tonight pretty much locks them into the 10. It clinches a top 9 spot for the Raptors for sure. The Hawks-Bulls tiebreaker isn’t set yet after they split the season series given their very similar conference record, but Atlanta’s magic number for a top 9 spot is still down at 2. To get the 9 seed while losing tonight, the Bulls need to win their last two games (@Dallas, Detroit) and see Atlanta lose out.
The bottom 5 –
T-11) The Pacers, Wizards, and Magic are all tied for the 11 seed. The Pacers have the tiebreaker over the Magic (head-to-head) and Wizards (conference record). The Magic and Wizards still have an up-in-the-air tiebreaker. That means the Pacers are currently the real 11 seed with Orlando and Washington splitting the 12 (it’s technically the Wizards with a half-game lead in division record). The only thing at stake here is lottery positioning. The Trail Blazers could very well beat the Spurs tomorrow, so the 5-8 spots are all alive. Indiana has a home and road game against the Knicks and a home game with the Pistons in-between. The Wizards visit the Hawks and host the Heat and Rockets. The Magic host the Cavs and visit the Nets and Heat. There’s a lot at play here still.
14) The Hornets will have the league’s fourth-worst record.
15) The Pistons will have the league’s worst-record.
The top four is likely going to remain the same, but things aren’t locked up quite yet –
1) The Nuggets just can’t wrap up the 1 seed. They lost by 21 in Houston last night with Jokic (???). Jamal Murray exited early with a thumb sprain. They’re 6-8 in their last fourteen. The magic number remains at 1, which means they can clinch the 1 seed if the Grizzlies lose in New Orleans tonight. The 5-12 seeds (Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Thunder, Mavs, Jazz) are all potential first round opponents.
2) The Grizzlies beat the Blazers last night to keep the 1 seed in play. They would need to win in New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Oklahoma City and see the Nuggets lose to the Suns (road), Jazz (road), and Kings (home), but a chance is a chance. Regardless of the 1 seed, winning is still important. The Kings are just two games back in the 3 seed, and they’re the ones that own the tiebreaker. That means Memphis’s magic number is 2 rather than 1. They’re going to want home court advantage in a potential West semis series. There are a number of potential first round opponents here too. The list is the same as Denver’s if they get the 2 seed.
3) The Kings are maintaining pressure on the Grizzlies. They rolled in New Orleans last night. Another win in Dallas tonight keeps the hope alive. They will be the 2 or 3 seed. If they can’t pass Memphis, the possible first round opponents are the Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans, and Timberwolves.
4) The Suns will be the 4 seed after beating the Spurs last night. The only question is who they play in the first round. The Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans, and Timberwolves are all on the table here too. The Nuggets would (likely) await in the second round.
Plenty could change in the 5-9 range –
5) The Warriors have a half game lead on the Clippers and Lakers for the 5 seed after beating the Thunder last night. They control their own destiny for a guaranteed playoff spot, but they would get the 6 seed if both they and the Clippers or Lakers win out (only one can do it with their game tonight). Friday’s trip to Sacramento is big; Golden State’s road record and Sacramento’s continued fight for seeding will make that a pretty tough spot.
6) The Clippers will own the tiebreaker over the Lakers regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game. But a win tonight would go a long way towards securing a top six spot, especially with a home game against the Blazers coming this weekend. Lose, and a play-in spot suddenly becomes a very real possibility.
7) The Lakers have done really well to climb out of their early season hole, and last night’s win over the Jazz was a big one. But there’s still work to do, starting with tonight’s game against the Clippers. Win, and the top six is in sight. Lose, and it gets harder to see. This is just a massive game for both sides.
8) The Pelicans fall to the 8 seed after losing to the Kings. They can’t afford to lose to the Grizzlies tonight if the top six is the goal. The bigger question might be whether they can hold onto a top 8 spot, and that will likely come down to Sunday’s tiebreaker-deciding trip to Minnesota.
9) The Timberwolves are half a game back of the Pelicans and have just two games to play. Last night’s win over the Nets guaranteed them a top 9 seed, but they’d like to move into the top 8. That’s very feasible with a trip to San Antonio and then the big game with the Pelicans all that’s left of the schedule.
The 10-12 range is still up for some changes too –
10) The Thunder are locked into the 10-12 range after three straight losses, so the only thing left for them to do is make the play-in. OKC owns the tiebreaker over Dallas but is just half a game above them, so the magic number there is 2. The magic number is also 2 with the Jazz since that tiebreaker is still to be decided. Tomorrow’s game in Utah is huge. A Thunder win knocks the Jazz out. A Jazz win gives Utah a really good chance at sneaking away with the 10 seed.
11) The Mavs have also lost three in a row, and they have a big game against the Kings tonight. Their playoff chances slip to the very edge of the cliff if they lose. Win, and they have themselves a shot heading into a pretty favorable final two games – Chicago, San Antonio.
12) The Jazz, believe it or not, have also lost three in a row. Yesterday’s OT loss to the Lakers was a big missed chance, but they’re still very much alive. They just need to beat the Thunder tomorrow. Win that game, split your last two against the Nuggets and Lakers, and see the Thunder lose their final to the Grizzlies. That’s a pretty realistic path to the play-in.
The Blazers are fighting for lottery positioning with three teams from the East –
13) The Blazers are awful and losing on purpose at this point, but they haven’t locked up the 5 spot in the lottery quite yet. Tomorrow’s trip to San Antonio probably gets it done though. They’re currently a game back of the Pacers, Magic, and Wizards, and a win over the Spurs would open the door to all three teams to fall down further. Portland split the season series with all three, and the Pacers are the only team they might finish with a worse conference record than. So the tiebreaker situation is not in their favor.
The Rockets and Spurs are fighting for the honor of being second-worst –
14) The Spurs are just a half game ahead of the Rockets, and Houston owns the tiebreaker. So losing out would give San Antonio the 2 spot in the lottery, which means they could only drop to the 6th pick instead of the 7th. The big problem is tomorrow’s game with the Blazers, which the Spurs could very easily win.
15) The Rockets need to lose in Charlotte and Washington and hope the Spurs win a game, or they’ll enter the lottery in the 3 slot.
NBA record: 217-190-7 ATS, 32-65 ML, 113-89-3 O/U, 1-9 parlay, 0-1 props, -22.62 units
- Knicks -4.5
- Nets Pistons O218
- Celtics -2.5
- Wizards Hawks O233.5
- Bucks -7
- Grizzlies +5
- Kings +6.5
- Kings ML (+225)
- Clippers -3
CBB record: 254-229-12 ATS, 57-83 ML, 5-5 O/U, 17-25 parlay, -9.83 units