NBA

NBA playoff picture, standings, magic numbers: 76ers on brink of No. 1 seed; Lakers still stuck in play-in

The New York Knicks clinched their first playoff berth since 2013 on Wednesday by virtue of the Boston Celtics’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The loss also sealed Boston’s fate in the play-in tournament. The Atlanta Hawks, who defeated the Washington Wizards on Monday, have also clinched a top-six seed along with the Miami Heat. Those three teams are still in a race for the Eastern Conference’s 4-6 seeds. 

In the West, the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks both won on Wednesday to remain in the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively, with the Los Angeles Lakers still in the mix at No. 7. Also, the New Orleans Pelicans have been officially eliminated from play-in contention. 

A quick reminder on the NBA‘s new play-in format: The top six seeds in each conference are in, with the final two seeds up for grabs via the new play-in tournament. In each conference, No. 7 will play No. 8 with the winner getting the No. 7 seed. The loser will then play the winner of 9 vs. 10 for the No. 8 seed.

Below is what the playoff picture looks like entering play on Thursday, May 13. Teams are listed in order of current seed along with the SportsLine projected finishing seed and different magic number scenarios. A “playoff spot” means a top-six seed. This post will continue to update for the remainder of the season as we keep track of these races down to the wire. 

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times to produce the most unbiased and precise projections possible.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

The Jazz fell to the Blazers on Wednesday and hold just a one-loss lead over the No. 2 Suns, who own the tiebreaker. Utah has two games remaining, and the Suns have three. Staying in the No. 1 spot has big implications as it would mean, entering play on Thursday, starting the playoffs on the opposite side of the bracket from the Suns and Clippers, and also the Lakers if they stay at No. 7.

  • Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 26th
  • Projected seed: No. 1

2. Phoenix Suns

The Suns trail the No. 1 Jazz by one loss with three to play. Phoenix has the tiebreaker. The Suns can still fall to No. 3 or even No. 4. They’re two up on the Clippers in the loss column with three to play, and the Clippers own the tiebreaker. The Suns are three up on the No. 4 Nuggets, who also own the tiebreaker. 

  • Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 2
  • Magic number to clinch top-three seed: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 15th
  • Projected seed: No. 2

3. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have a one-game lead over the No. 4 Nuggets with three games to play. Denver owns the tiebreaker, so that race is still very much in question. The Clippers have clinched a top-four seed. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 3 seed: 3
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 29th
  • Projected seed: No. 3

4. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets trail the No. 3 Clippers by one in the loss column with three games to play and the tiebreaker in hand. Denver clinched a top-four seed with its win over the Hornets on Tuesday. 

  • Strength of remaining schedule: 23rd
  • Projected seed: No. 4

5. Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers beat the Jazz on Wednesday and remain in the No. 5 spot. Portland is currently tied with the No. 6 Mavericks with a one-game lead over the No. 7 Lakers and the the head-to-head tiebreaker secured over both. The Blazers can clinch a top-six seed with a win over Phoenix on Thursday. 

If the Blazers, Mavericks and Lakers end up in a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker goes to Dallas as the only division winner. From there, the Blazers own the head-to-head over the Lakers to secure the No. 6 seed, leaving L.A. in the play-in tourney at No. 7. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 1st
  • Projected seed: No. 6

6. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks beat the Pelicans on Wednesday and remain in the No. 6 seed. Dallas is tied with No. 5 Portland, which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. Dallas has a one-game lead over the No. 7 Lakers with two to play, and the Mavericks own the tiebreaker. Dallas can clinch a top-six seed with a win over Toronto on Friday. 

If the Blazers, Mavericks and Lakers end up in a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker goes to Dallas as the only division winner. From there, the Blazers own the head-to-head over the Lakers to secure the No. 6 seed, leaving L.A. in the play-in tourney at No. 7. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 28th
  • Projected seed: No. 5

(Current play-in teams)

7. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers trail the No. 6 Mavericks and No. 5 Blazers by one game with two to play, but they have already lost the tiebreaker to both. The Lakers cannot finish below the No. 7 seed and do not control their own destiny for a top-six seed. 

If the Blazers, Mavericks and Lakers end up in a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker goes to Dallas as the only division winner. From there, the Blazers own the head-to-head over the Lakers to secure the No. 6 seed, leaving L.A. in the play-in tourney at No. 7. 

  • Strength of remaining schedule: 21st
  • Projected seed: No. 7

The Warriors are tied with the No. 9 Grizzlies in the loss column. The Warriors-Grizzlies season series is tied 1-1 with the rubber match set for the final day of the season. The Warriors have clinched at least the No. 9 seed. 

  • Strength of remaining schedule: 19th
  • Projected seed: No. 8

Memphis is tied in the loss column with No. 8 Golden State (which has a higher win percentage at the moment) with the season series tied 1-1 and one matchup left on the last day of the season. The Grizzlies have a three-loss lead over No. 10 San Antonio with the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 8 seed: 3
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 20th
  • Projected seed: No. 9

San Antonio leads No. 11 Sacramento by two games with three to play and the tiebreaker in hand. One more win or one Sacramento loss and the Spurs clinch a play-in spot. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 3rd
  • Projected seed: No. 10

(Clinging to play-in life)

  • 11. Sacramento Kings — Two losses back of No. 10 San Antonio (Spurs have the tiebreaker).
Can the Lakers finish above the seventh seed? It’s looking more and more unlikely.
Getty Images

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

The Sixers lead No. 2 Brooklyn by two losses with three to play and the tiebreaker in hand. The Sixers can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win over Orlando on Thursday. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 25th
  • Projected seed: No. 1

The Nets trail the No. 1 Sixers by two losses with two to play (three for the Sixers) and Philly owns the tiebreaker. Brooklyn leads No. 3 Milwaukee by one loss, but the Bucks have the tiebreaker. The Nets have clinched a top-three seed. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 2 seed: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 27th
  • Projected seed: No. 2

3. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are one loss behind the No. 2 Nets with the tiebreaker in hand. The Bucks have clinched a top-three seed, but do not control their own destiny for anything higher than that. 

  • Strength of remaining schedule: 18th
  • Projected seed: No. 3

The Hawks clinched a top-six seed on Wednesday, thanks to Boston’s loss. The Hawks are tied in the loss column with the No. 5 Heat (Hawks own head-to-head tiebreaker) and No. 6 Knicks (Knicks own head-to-head tiebreaker). 

If Atlanta, Miami and New York finish in a three-way tie, Atlanta would win the Southeast Division by way of having a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Miami, and by extension, would be awarded the No. 4 seed as the lone division winner among the three teams. From there, Miami would be No. 5 by virtue of its 3-0 season-series advantage over New York, which would be left at No. 6. 

  • Magic number to clinch top-five seed: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 30th
  • Projected seed: No. 4

The Heat have sealed at least a top-six seed. Miami is tied with No. 4 Atlanta (Hawks own head-to-head) and the No. 6 Knicks (Miami owns head to head). 

If Atlanta, Miami and New York finish in a three-way tie, Atlanta would win the Southeast Division by way of having a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Miami, and by extension, would be awarded the No. 4 seed as the lone division winner among the three teams. From there, Miami would be No. 5 by virtue of its 3-0 season-series advantage over New York, which would be left at No. 6. 

  • Strength of remaining schedule: 14th
  • Projected seed: No. 5

6. New York Knicks

The Knicks are tied in the loss column with the No. 5 Heat (Knicks own tiebreaker) and No. 4 Hawks (Hawks own tiebreaker). The Knicks have clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

If Atlanta, Miami and New York finish in a three-way tie, Atlanta would win the Southeast Division by way of having a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Miami, and by extension, would be awarded the No. 4 seed as the lone division winner among the three teams. From there, Miami would be No. 5 by virtue of its 3-0 season-series advantage over New York, which would be left at No. 6. 

  • Strength of remaining schedule: 17th
  • Projected seed: No. 6

(Current play-in teams)

The Celtics cannot make the top six. They are locked into the play-in tournament and hold just a one-game lead in the loss column over No. 8 Charlotte and No. 9 Indiana. Boston does have the tiebreaker over both secured. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 7 seed: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 22nd
  • Projected seed: No. 7

Charlotte trails No. 7 Boston by one in the loss column with three games to play (Boston owns tiebreaker). The Hornets are tied with No. 9 Indiana with the tiebreaker in hand. The Hornets lead No. 10 Washington by two in the loss column and own the tiebreaker. The Hornets have clinched a play-in spot. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 8 seed: 3
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 10th
  • Projected seed: No. 8

The Pacers are tied with the No. 8 Hornets, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Indiana leads No. 10 Washington by two in the loss column (Wizards own the tiebreaker). Indiana has clinched a play-in spot. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 9 seed: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 13th
  • Projected seed: No. 9

10. Washington Wizards

The Wizards trail the Pacers by two in the loss column, but they do own the tiebreaker. They have a two-loss lead over the No. 11 Bulls with two games to play. Chicago owns the tiebreaker. One win for Washington or one loss for Chicago seals the final play-in spot for the Wizards. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 24th
  • Projected seed: No. 10

(Clinging to play-in life)

  • 11. Chicago Bulls — Two losses back of No. 10 Washington with two games to play and the tiebreaker secured. 



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