NBA playoff picture, standings, magic numbers: Nets first in East to clinch; Bucks lock at least play-in spot

0

The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night to clinch a top-six playoff seed, the first Eastern Conference team to do so. Meanwhile, the Celtics, playing without Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker, took a disastrous loss to the Thunder to fall into a tie with the No. 7 Miami Heat. 

A quick reminder on the 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 higher seed having to win one game while the lower seed would have to win two. The winner of that 7 vs. 8 series gets the No. 7 spot, with the loser awaiting the winner of the 9 vs. 10 play-in series to decide the No. 8 seed. 

Below is what the playoff picture looks like entering play on Wednesday, April 28. 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 have a clinched playoff spot and continue to hold the league’s best record at 44-17, but their lead over the Phoenix Suns shrunk to one game after a one-point loss to the Timberwolves Monday night combined with a Suns victory. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 10
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 3
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 23rd
  • Projected seed: No. 1

As mentioned, the Suns are within a game of the No. 1 Jazz, and they also extended their lead over the No. 3 Clippers to two games in the loss column on Monday. The Suns play the Jazz on Friday, and they have already clinched the tiebreaker having won the first two head-to-head meetings against Utah this season. Phoenix cannot finish outside the second play-in series at worst. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 7th
  • Projected seed: No. 2

3. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers lost to New Orleans on Monday night and dropped a game further behind No. 2 Phoenix. They also lost a game off their lead over the No. 4 Nuggets, which now sits at just one game in the loss column. The Clippers and Nuggets play on Saturday in a game with even more ramifications in that it will decide the tiebreaker with the season series currently tied 1-1. The Clippers can clinch a top-six seed with a Portland loss Tuesday night. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 4
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 18th
  • Projected seed: No. 3

The Nuggets have clinched a spot in at least a play-in series. They are four games up on the No. 5 Los Angeles Lakers in the loss column and lead the season series 1-0. Denver has one game left against the Lakers. A top-four seed feels pretty secure at first glance, but as you’ll see below, our SportsLine projection actually has the Nuggets falling behind the Lakers to the No. 5 seed. I don’t buy that. The Nuggets, to me, have a far better chance of jumping the Clippers at No. 3 than falling to No. 5. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 4
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 6
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 10th
  • Projected seed: No. 5

5. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have a soft schedule over the last week and our SportsLine projections have them going on a run to end the season and jumping Denver for the No. 4 spot, which would give the Lakers home-court advantage in a 4-5 first-round series vs. the Nuggets. The Lakers and Nuggets play next Monday, which will decide the tiebreaker with the season series currently tied 1-1. 

That said, there’s a lot of speculation built into that forecast. For the time being, the Lakers have lost three straight and hold just a two-loss lead over No. 6 Dallas in the loss column and are three games in the loss column from falling into a play-in series. Technically, they do not control their own destiny for a top-four seed. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 3
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 7
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 14th
  • Projected seed: No. 4

Dallas has jumped the Portland Trail Blazers for the current No. 6 seed, but a loss Monday night to the Kings dropped them three losses behind the No. 5 Lakers. Dallas also owns the tiebreaker over the Lakers via a 2-1 edge in the head-to-head season series, but beneath them, it’s the Blazers who own the tiebreaker. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 5
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 12
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 28th
  • Projected seed: No. 6

(Current play-in teams)

7. Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers ended their five-game losing streak on Tuesday with a blowout win over Indiana. They still sit at the No. 7 spot, and as you’ll see below, our SportsLine projections have them falling even lower. The Blazers do not control their own destiny for a top-six seed, but they do only trail Dallas by one game in the loss column and they own the tiebreaker. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 5th
  • Projected seed: No. 9

The Grizzlies got smoked by Denver on Monday night and are now one game back of No. 7 Portland in the loss column. Memphis already owns the tiebreaker over Portland with one more head-to-head set for Wednesday, which is obviously a pivotal game. Our SportsLine projections have the Grizzlies rising above Portland by season’s end in large part because they have the softest remaining schedule as of Tuesday. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 30th
  • Projected seed: No. 7

The Spurs drew even, record wise, with Memphis after the Grizzlies’ loss Monday night, and they remain one half-game up on the No. 10 Warriors. San Antonio has no remaining games against either of those teams and has lost the tiebreaker to both via head-to-head. The Spurs also have the league’s toughest remaining schedule according to opponent win percentage. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 1st
  • Projected seed: No. 10

10. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have won seven of their last 10 to strengthen their grip on a play-in spot. Entering play on Tuesday, Golden State has a four-game lead in the loss column over No. 11 New Orleans and a six-game lead over the No. 11 Kings, whom they beat on Sunday night. The Warriors have a back-to-back against the Pelicans next Monday and Tuesday and can pretty much seal their play-in spot with a sweep. As you’ll see below, our SportsLine projections have the Warriors moving up to the No. 8 seed and playing Memphis in the first play-in series. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 25th
  • Projected seed: No. 8

(Clinging to play-in life)

  • 11. New Orleans Pelicans — Four losses back of No. 10 Golden State
  • 12. Sacramento Kings — Six losses back of No. 10 Golden State

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

The Nets clinched a playoff spot with their win over the Raptors on Tuesday, and they have jumped Philly for the East’s current No. 1 seed. But that lead is tenuous. The Nets still hold just a one-game lead over the No. 2 Sixers, who own the tiebreaker. Our SportsLine projections have Brooklyn ultimately falling back below Philly and ending up No. 2 in the East, which sets up a likely second-round matchup with Milwaukee.

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

The Sixers snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over OKC on Monday. As mentioned above, they are one game back of Brooklyn with the tiebreaker in hand. Our SportsLine projections have the Sixers ultimately jumping Brooklyn, but beware of a potential fall to No. 3 as well. The Sixers lead the No. 3 Bucks by just two games and Milwaukee has the tiebreaker, thanks to a 3-0 head-to-head sweep. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 3
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 30th
  • Projected seed: No. 1

3. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are almost certainly not going to drop below No. 3 with a five-loss lead over the No. 4 Knicks. The Bucks, again, have a real shot at jumping Philly for the No. 2 seed, which would mean home-court advantage in a potential second-round matchup. The Bucks are two losses back of Philly and own the tiebreaker via a 3-0 season-series sweep. Milwaukee also has the league’s fifth-easiest schedule down the stretch, Milwaukee clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament with a win over the Hornets Tuesday night. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 5
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 7
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 26th
  • Projected seed: No. 3

The Knicks finally lost, with the Suns ending their nine-game win streak on Monday. The Knicks are tied with the No. 5 Hawks record-wise, but sit above them because they have swept the season series 3-0. The bad news is our SportsLine projection has New York dropping two spots by season’s end in part due to its tough remaining schedule. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 3
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 9
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 5th
  • Projected seed: No. 6

5. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are flying high. They’ve won seven of their last 10 and are 20-7 under Nate McMillan. Chances are Atlanta isn’t going to catch Milwaukee for the No. 3 seed, but a top-four seed is right there and is, in fact, expected to be obtained via SportsLine projections. As mentioned, the Hawks are tied with the No. 4 Knicks, who hold the current edge by owning the tiebreaker having swept the Hawks 3-0 on the season. Atlanta’s lead on No. 5 Boston is just one game according to record, but it’s effectively two games because Atlanta owns the tiebreaker over Boston via a 2-1 season-series advantage. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 3
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 9
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 20th
  • Projected seed: No. 4

The Celtics took a bad loss to the Thunder on Tuesday, and are now two games back in the loss column of No. 5 Atlanta and No. 4 New York. Boston has a 1-1 head-to-head record against the Knicks, and the two teams play on the final day of the regular season. That’s the upside. 

The downside is the Celtics have fallen into a tie with the No. 7 Heat, whom they play twice over the season’s final week. Those two games could very well determine who secures a top-six seed and who has to battle through at least one play-in series. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 6
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 9
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 27th
  • Projected seed: No. 5

(Current play-in teams)

7. Miami Heat

The Heat are relatively secure to end up with at least the No. 9 seed, as they’re four losses up on the No. 10 Washington Wizards. But they obviously have their sights set on moving up to at least No. 6 and avoiding the play-in tournament altogether. As mentioned, they are now tied with the No. 6 Celtics with two head-to-head matchups remaining. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 5
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 10
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 21st
  • Projected seed: No. 7

8. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets lost to Milwaukee Tuesday night but still control their own destiny to pass Miami for the No. 7 seed. They are down one loss to the Heat but have one more head-to-head matchup with the tiebreaker already in their pocket. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 8
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 12
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 21st
  • Projected seed: No. 8

The Pacers got drilled by the Blazers Tuesday night and now hold just a two-game lead over the No. 10 Wizards in the loss column and a three-game lead over the No. 11 Bulls. The good news is the Pacers also trail the No. 8 Hornets by just one game, although the Hornets own the tiebreaker which equates to an effective two-game gap. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 15th
  • Projected seed: No. 9

10. Washington Wizards

The Wizards have won eight of their last 10 to crawl into the bottom of the play-in picture. They hold a narrow one-loss lead over the No. 11 Chicago Bulls, but Chicago owns the tiebreaker. The Wizards also have a one-loss lead over the Toronto Raptors, who also own the tiebreaker with one head-to-head matchup remaining. The Wizards have one game left against Indiana. If they have designs on moving up to No. 9, that game is probably a must-win, but the more pressing concern is holding off Chicago and Toronto. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 11
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 17th
  • Projected seed: No. 10

(Outside looking in)

  • 11. Chicago Bulls — One loss back of No. 10 Washington
  • 12. Toronto Raptors — One loss back of No. 10 Washington





Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.