Happy Thursday. Yesterday was a huge 7-2 day. That gives us some momentum to run with here. We were close to having an even better day too; the Kings fell a little short of a win against the Mavs, and the Grizzlies could have very easily covered in the final seconds instead of taking their game with the Pels all the way to OT, where they ended up struggling to keep up. Let’s find some more winners tonight, but first, a look at the seeding picture after last night’s action…
The East’s top 5 is now officially set –
1) The Bucks clinched the 1 seed with a win over the Bulls, which means the playoffs run through Milwaukee. Khris Middleton’s knee will be the thing to watch over the next week or two. The Nets, Heat, Hawks, Raptors, and Bulls all remain as first round possibilities.
2) The Celtics beat the Raptors, but they’ll be trapped in the 2 seed. The Nets, Heat, Hawks, Raptors, and Bulls all remain as first round possibilities for Boston too.
3) The Sixers did not play last night, and they’re locked into the 3 seed. They’ll face 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 didn’t play last night either. They’ll be the 4 seed regardless of how their last few games go. .
5) The Knicks won in Indiana. They had clinched the 5 seed prior to last night, which means they’ll be facing the Cavs in the first round.
The last guaranteed playoff spot is down to two teams –
6) The Nets beat the Pistons to bring their magic number down to 1. Just one more win (Orlando, Philadelphia) or Heat loss locks up the 6 seed.
7) The Heat didn’t play last night. They need to win in Philadelphia tonight to keep their shot at a guaranteed playoff spot alive. There’s still a long way to go even if they win, but the door closes all the way if they lose. A win would also clinch a top seven seed, but they could get that done against the Wizards or Magic too.
The rest of the play-in teams are set, but seeding isn’t finalized quite yet –
8) The Hawks won in Washington to pick up their second big win in as many days. This one locks up a top nine seed, and their magic number to clinch the 8 seed is down to 1 after Toronto’s loss. Atlanta finishes with two tough games against the Sixers and Celtics, but they’d still have a decent shot at the 8 seed with two losses given that the Raptors need to play the Celtics and Bucks. They’re likely looking at a game in Miami for the 7 seed and then either the Celtics in the first round or a home game against the Raptors/Bulls for the right to face the Bucks.
9) The Raptors lost a close one to the Celtics, and it’s probably going to put them in the 9 seed. They need to win out and hope Atlanta loses twice to grab the 8. So they’ll likely get Chicago in Toronto in a win-or-go-home game and then visit either Miami or Atlanta with the 8 seed on the line.
10) The Bulls are locked into the 10 spot after the Hawks win combined with their loss to the Bucks to seal the deal. That means they’ll be going on the road to Toronto (likely) or Atlanta and then, if they win, visiting the loser of the 7/8 game. So Chicago will need to win two road games to get into the playoffs.
The bottom 5 –
11) The Magic didn’t play and thus sit half a game ahead of the Pacers and Wizards. As we talked about yesterday, Indiana owns both tiebreakers here, which means they would get lower lottery position if tied with both or either. Orlando hosts the Cavs tonight. A win means the 8 spot for the lottery is a real possibility. A loss throws them right back in the mix for the 5-7 zone.
12) The Pacers lost to the Knicks, and they would hold the 7 spot heading into the lottery if the season ended right now. Given the status of their tiebreakers, they’re going to want to keep losing to have a good shot at a top six spot in the lottery, and tomorrow’s home game against the Pistons is going to be a hard one to lose.
13) The Wizards lost to the Hawks and have the 6 spot in the lottery as of this morning. The Wizards should finish below the Magic in the standings if they tie by virtue of a slightly worse record against the Eastern Conference playoff teams (division record and conference record may very well be identical here).
Worth noting here – the Blazers (5 in the lottery) are currently just half a game behind the Pacers and Wizards and one game behind the Magic.
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 very nearly locked up –
1) The Nuggets didn’t play last night, but they still clinched the 1 seed with the Grizzlies loss. The 5-12 seeds (Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Thunder, Mavs, Jazz) are all potential first round opponents.
2) The Grizzlies pulled off a mini-miracle, making up six points in eleven seconds, to take the Pelicans to OT, but they couldn’t pull out the win. That ends their chase of the 1 seed. On the bright side, their magic number to clinch the 2 seed fell to 1 with the Kings loss. Beating the Bucks or Thunder (or seeing Sacramento lose to the Warriors or Nuggets) will seal the deal and grant them that key home court advantage in any second round series. There are a number of potential first round opponents here too. I said yesterday that the list is the same as Denver’s if they get the 2 seed, but that’s not true. Only the Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans, and Timberwolves have a shot at a top 8 seed, and you need to be in the 7/8 game to get the 7 seed.
3) The Kings lost to the Mavs, and that will likely put them in the 3 seed. There’s zero margin for error left. If they stay in the 3 seed, 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. Those same teams – the Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Pelicans, and Timberwolves – are all on the table here too. The Nuggets would await in the second round.
Plenty could change in the 5-9 range –
5) The Clippers are in a pretty good spot after beating the Lakers last night. The magic number to clinch a top 7 seed (edging out the Timberwolves and Lakers) is 1. They also control their own destiny for the 5 seed, being a game up on the Pelicans and owning the tiebreaker over the Warriors. Taking care of business against the Trail Blazers on Saturday might just clinch a playoff spot if a few other things go their way.
6) The Warriors didn’t play 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 win out. 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.
7) The Lakers have done really well to climb out of their early season hole, but last night’s loss to the Clippers probably will end up keeping them in the play-in. Beating both the Suns and the Jazz to end the season changes that equation to some degree though. The key here – LAL owns tiebreakers over both the Warriors and Pelicans. The 6 seed isn’t done quite yet. On the other hand, the Lakers could also very well finish in the 9 seed. They’re just a game up on the Timberwolves and don’t own that tiebreaker.
8) The Pelicans picked up a huge win over the Grizzlies to keep their top six hopes alive. They own the tiebreaker over the Clippers and could still beat out the Warriors by conference record, which they currently have a half game lead in. They don’t own the tiebreaker over the Lakers, however. Tomorrow’s game against the Knicks is pretty big. Lose, and you’re essentially playing the Timberwolves for the 8 seed in the season finale. Win, and a lot of things are still on the table.
9) The Timberwolves didn’t play last night and are a game back of the Pelicans and Lakers with two games to play. The effort to move up from the 9 seed needs to start with a win over the Spurs on Saturday.
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 now tied with them after last night’s Mavs win. The magic number remains at 2. The magic number is also 2 with the Jazz since that tiebreaker is still to be decided. Tonight’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 broke the losing streak with a big win over the Kings. They only have the Bulls and Spurs left on the schedule, and they could very easily win both to keep the pressure on the Thunder. The Mavs don’t control their own destiny here, but they can give themselves a really good shot at the play-in by winning out.
12) The Jazz have also lost three in a row, and they’re in quite a bit of trouble after the Mavs topped the Kings. They need to finish 3-0 and see the Mavs lose twice to finish above them. Tonight’s game against the Thunder is big.
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. Losing tonight’s trip to San Antonio probably gets it done though. Beat the Spurs, though, and Portland finds themselves more likely to finish in the 6-8 range given the tiebreakers they hold across conferences with the Wizards and Magic.
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: 222-191-7 ATS, 32-66 ML, 115-89-3 O/U, 1-9 parlay, 0-1 props, -17.75 units
One thing to note here – betting these last few days of the season will be especially difficult. The Cavs tonight, for example, will play without Mitchell, Garland, Allen, Mobley, LeVert, and Okoro. They’ll be playing the Magic, who are healthy but also wouldn’t mind losing given that they can finish anywhere from 5-8 in the lottery order based on how these next few games go.
- Cavs +9.5
Lotta points for a team that’s gonna have Cedi Osman in takeover mode.
- Cavs Magic O217.5
- Sixers -3
- Jazz +6.5
- Nuggets Suns O223.5
CBB record: 254-229-12 ATS, 57-83 ML, 5-5 O/U, 17-25 parlay, -9.83 units