Wednesday night is the final night of the NBA’s regular season and much of the playoff picture is still undecided.
The Eastern Conference is a bit more clear than the West, but four teams are still jockeying for position.
Here’s a look at the standings as of Wednesday morning:
- Atlanta Hawks, 60-21, 0 Games Back (GB)
- Cleveland Cavaliers, 52-29, 8.0 GB
- Chicago Bulls, 49-32, 11.0 GB
- Toronto Raptors, 48-33, 12.0 GB
- Washington Wizards, 46-35, 14.0 GB
- Milwaukee Bucks, 41-40, 19.0 GB
- Boston Celtics, 39-42, 21.0 GB
- Indiana Pacers, 38-43, 22.0 GB
- Brooklyn Nets, 37-44, 23.0 GB
The Hawks, Cavs, Wizards, Bucks, and Celtics all have their respective seeds locked up, but the Bulls and Raptors can still flip positions.
- If the Bulls beat the Hawks, Chicago will lock up the third seed.
- If the Bulls lose and the Raptors beat the Charlotte Hornets, the Raptors would be the third seed. While the Bulls swept the Raptors during the season series, the Raptors would get the third seed for being the Atlantic Division winner based on the NBA’s playoff tiebreak rules.
While the natural thinking would be that the Bulls want to hold onto the third seed, some people believe both the Bulls and the Raptors want to be the fourth seed so they can avoid the Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. That idea, of course, depends on the Cavs and the Bulls/Raptors winning their respective first round series, but some believe it’s better to avoid the Cavaliers, the favourite to win the East, until the conference Finals.
The Pacers, meanwhile, need a win over the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night to make the playoffs. The Nets are on the outside looking in, but if they win Wednesday night and the Pacers lose, the Nets will make the playoffs because they won the season series over the Pacers. If the Pacers win their game, the Nets are eliminated.
The Western Conference is even more muddled. Here’s a look at the standings as of Wednesday morning:
- Golden State Warriors, 66-15, 0 GB
- Los Angeles Clippers, 56-26, 10.5 GB
- San Antonio Spurs, 55-26, 11.0 GB
- Portland Trail Blazers, 51-30, 15.0 GB
- Houston Rockets, 55-26, 11.0 GB
- Memphis Grizzlies, 54-27, 12.0 GB
- Dallas Mavericks, 49-32, 17.0 GB
- New Orleans Pelicans, 44-37, 22.0 GB
- Oklahoma City Thunder, 44-37, 22.0 GB
The battle between the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies is the craziest in the NBA. With the Clippers win Tuesday night, they have locked up the second or third seed, depending on how things shake out with the Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies.
If the Spurs beat the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night, they will clinch the second seed, regardless of any other outcomes. If the Spurs lose, a variety of other outcomes are possible. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- If the Spurs lose and Rockets and Grizzlies both win, the Clippers will be second seed, the Rockets will be third seed, the Grizzlies will be fifth seed, and the Spurs will be sixth seed.
- If the Spurs lose and Rockets and Grizzlies both lose, the Clippers will be second seed, Spurs will be third seed, the Rockets will be fifth seed, and the Grizzlies will be sixth seed.
- If the Spurs lose, the Rockets win and the Grizzlies lose, the Rockets will be second seed, the Clippers will be third seed, the Spurs will be fifth seed, and Grizzlies will be sixth seed.
- If the Spurs lose, the Rockets lose, and the Grizzlies win, the Clippers will be second seed, the Grizzlies will be third seed, Spurs will be fifth seed, and the Rockets will be sixth seed.
Wednesday night’s matchup between the Grizzlies and Pacers is hugely important. The Pacers’ playoff chances hinge on a victory, while the Grizzlies (if everything rolls their way) could get the third seed in the West if they win, but remain at sixth seed if they lose.
This doesn’t even include the race for the eighth seed between the Pelicans and the Thunder. The two teams are tied for eighth place, but because the Pelicans won the season series, they would be eighth seed if they finish with the same record. (Aside: Anthony Davis’ insane game-winning three-pointer over the Thunder in February could be the deciding factor between the Thunder and Pelicans making the playoffs).
The Pelicans, however, have to play the Spurs, who could lock up the No. 2 seed with a win, so there’s incentive for both teams to win. The Thunder, meanwhile, are playing the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the NBA’s worst record, gunners for the No. 1 pick in the draft.
If the Pelicans win their game, they make the playoffs. If the Pelicans lose and the Thunder win their game (which seems likely because the Wolves want to lose this game), the Pelicans miss the playoffs while the Thunder make it in.
The multitude of scenarios in Wednesday night’s 14-game lineup makes the final night of the season arguably the best night of the year.
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