Monday, May 27, 2024

NBA playoff picture: How the final weekend of regular season can shape NBA playoff bracket

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The NBA playoff picture remains blurry even if aspects of the standings in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference are coming into focus.

Two days of games remain – 15 games on Friday and 15 games on Sunday.

Here’s what we know: Boston locked up the No. 1 seed, it seems weeks ago, in the East. Chicago will play host to Atlanta in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 play-in game in the East. After that, spots 2-8 are undetermined, and somehow the battered New York Knicks still have a shot at the second seed. Indiana and Orlando can finish as high as No. 3 and as low as No. 8.

In the West, Sacramento, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers are in the play-in scenario along with either Phoenix or New Orleans, but the order is unknown, and the Los Angeles Clippers will play Dallas in the first round.

New Orleans and Phoenix and fighting for sixth place, and Denver, Minnesota and Oklahoma City are battling for the top three seeds.

Here are Friday’s games and what’s at stake:

The Bulls have secured the No. 9 seed and get Atlanta at home in the 9-10 play-in game.

The Magic are trying to hold onto a top-six seed, and the Sixers are trying to move up from seventh into the top six. Both want to avoid the play-in game. Huge game for both teams. Orlando earns a top-six seed with a victory. If Philadelphia loses, it is in the play-in game.

The No. 2 seed remains within reach for the Knicks, and a win vs. Brooklyn secures the No. 3 seed at least.

Cleveland can finish as high as No. 2 or as low as No. 7, and the Pacers can finish as high as No. 3 or as low as No. 8. The Cavaliers clinch a top-six seed with a victory or a Philadelphia loss, and the Pacers clinch a top-six seed with a victory or a playoff loss.

This game matters because Charlotte wants the best lottery odds it can get by losing as many games as it can.

The Nuggets can get the top seed in the West if they win their final two games of the season. Also, a Nuggets victory combined with Oklahoma City and Minnesota losses gives them the top seed in the West.

This is an important game for both teams with a No. 2 seed on the line for both teams in their conferences. The Thunder are guaranteed no worse than a No. 3 seed, and the second-place Bucks could fall to No. 4. With a victory, they clinch the No. 2 seed.

While the Timberwolves don’t control their destiny for the No. 1 seed in the West, they do for the No. 2 seed based on the tiebreaker.

Spots 6-10 in the West may just come down to the final day of the season. The Lakers need the win if they want to avoid 10th place and at least one play-in game on the road.

Even though the Heat are in eighth place, they still have a shot at getting the No. 5 seed though they will go to the play-in game with a loss or an Orlando victory.

The Mavs still have a shot at the No. 4 seed – they trail by one game the Los Angeles Clippers, who own the tiebreaker based on a 2-1 edge in the season series.

Lottery ping-pong balls matter for Portland.

The Pelicans can finish sixth by winning their final two games. They can also get the sixth seed with a victory against Golden State and a Phoenix loss to Sacramento. If Phoenix and New Orleans conclude the regular season with identical records, the Suns win the head-to-head tiebreaker for the sixth seed. The Warriors can finish seventh … or they can end up 10th.

The Suns still have a shot at the No. 6 seed, trailing New Orleans by one game.  The Kings are stuck in the play-in game.

The Clippers will play the Mavs in the first round in the 4-5 game. If the Clippers beat the Jazz, they get home court in the series.

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