Updated playoff positioning following Monday night's games.
Posted by Matt Moore
We've got 16 teams, and a lot of them are locked in place. Here's where we stand in terms of playoff positioning going into Tuesday night's games.
The East is locked. With Miami's win over the Hawks combined with Boston's loss to the Wizards, along with the Sixers loss to the Magic, we have our first round playoff match-ups.
1 Chicago vs. 8 Indiana
2 Miami vs. 7 Philadelphia
3 Boston vs. 6 New York
4 Orlando vs. 5 Atlanta
Boston lucks out in this scenario. Without a legit center and against a weak rebounding team, their biggest concerns are mitigated, and it could allow them time to get back on their feet. Shutting down explosive stars is their business. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is the exact kind of team Miami could overlook. While the Sixers are outmatched at nearly every position outside point guard (even lacking a superior center). The Magic knew they were headed for the Hawks for weeks, same with Chicago and Indiana.
New York landing as the six is considerably higher than many thought they would in the preseason. Philadelphia has to be unnerved they surrendered the sixth spot, but given their beginning, it's still a win.
A likely Easteron Conference semi-finals series between Boston and Miami would begin with Game 1 in the great state of Florida.
Things are much more liquid in the Western Conference. Denver's win over Golden State secures Denver in the fifth seed. The Spurs locked up the No. 1 seed a week ago. Other than that, everything's up in the air. Dallas' win over Houston after L.A.'s loss to the Thunder Sunday puts the 2 seed back in play. The Mavericks are now a half-game ahead of the Lakers for homecourt in a theoretical second round. The pressure is now on L.A. to break their five-game losing streak and close out the season to secure that seed. But then, lowering themselves to actually trying in games like this are not really the Lakers style.
And oh, look at that, Oklahoma City is only a half game behind the Lakers. If the Lakers lose out, it's possible L.A. could wind up in the fourth spot, as crazy as that is.
Meanwhile, as Denver is the dividing line between the insanity up-top and the looniness on the bottom, there's a continuing shuffling in spots 6-8. Portland remains in the driver's seat for the sixth seed. With the Hornets' loss to the Jazz, which was about as badly timed as it could have been, the Hornets have fallen to the 8th seed. Memphis is now in the seventh spot. The Grizzlies face the Blazers Tuesday night with the season series tied 1-1. Winner gets tiebreaker. Portland wins, they lock up the sixth. Grizzlies win, it comes down to Wednesday night's games. This situation is made trickier by not knowing how the top will look. In reality, everyone's trying to avoid the Lakers. But since L.A. could land anywhere between 2 and 4, there's no way to effectively duck them. If Portland wants to avoid the Lakers, for example, and think winning is the best way to do so, they could beat the Grizzlies, then watch Phil Jackson pull his starters against San Antonio and Sacramento.
There's no way to tank to avoid opponents. It's a lottery at this point. Which is why so often coaches ignore such strategies at an organizational level.
We'll update you after Tuesday's games.