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NBA Playoff Picture and magic numbers for Tuesday, April 24th

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

Each morning we'll update you on the playoff race in both conferences. Not just who is how many games out of what seed, but what the seedings and matchups mean for each team based on what we've seen. For our complete playoff standings, click here. For yesterday's primer, click here.

Current matchups:

Chicago (1) vs. Philadelphia (8)
Miami (2) vs. New York (7)
Indiana (3) vs. Orlando (6)
Boston (4) vs. Atlanta (5)

San Antonio (1) vs. Utah (8)
Oklahoma City (2) vs. Dallas (7)
Los Angeles Lakers (3) vs. Denver (6)
Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Memphis (5)

*Bold indicates locked seeding/series.

Eastern Conference



East No.1 and No.2 seeds: Miami would not go quietly into that dark night, holding off the Bulls' celebration with a win over the Rockets Sunday. The Bulls' magic number to clinch the No.1 seed in the East remains at one. Both teams were off Monday, so it comes down to Tuesday. Miami plays Boston. A Celtics win gives the Bulls the top spot. If the Heat win, the attention shifts to the Bulls facing the Pacers on Wednesday. If the Pacers pull off a win against the Bulls, things will get interesting. To be continued...

East No.3 seed: The Hawks' loss to the Knicks clinches the third seed for the Pacers. There's a very narrow chance they could face the Knicks, but Frank Vogel would be better off planning on guarding Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson. Pacers-Magic is nearly inevitable.

East No.4 and No.5 seed: Boston-Atlanta is locked. That's our first confirmed matchup for the 2012 playoffs.

East No.6 and No.7 seeds: The Knicks have a very thin shot at the sixth seed. If the Magic go 0-2 and the Knicks go 2-0, the Knicks take the six with tiebreaker, dropping Orlando into a matchup with the second seed and an even faster exit in the first round.

The Magic have tiebreaker over the Sixers, so even if they went 0-2 and the Knicks and Sixers finished out 2-0, the Magic would hold onto the seven. I'm sure they're giddy.

The Knicks hold tiebreaker over Philadelphia so their magic number for the seven is two. The Sixers need to go 3-0 if the Knicks go 1-1. The Sixers beat the Nets Monday night, so they need to go 2-0 and have the Knicks either go 1-1 or 0-2 to move up. Coach Doug Collins said he's resting starters the other two games. Indications are that they plan to target Chicago and not Miami, which makes sense. The Sixers lost the season series but wound up with a positive efficiency differential against the Bulls (.5). If the Knicks go 0-2, the Sixers can drop one and still win the seven. Philadelphia faces two lottery teams to finish the season.

East No.8 seed: The Sixers' win Monday night clinched a playoffs spot for Philadelphia. Crisis averted in the City of Brotherly Love. Milwaukee goes home empty-handed.

Western Conference


West No.1 seed: The race for the No.1 seed in the West is over, and it belongs to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs' win over Portland gives the Spurs the No.1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. A masterful rush to end the season for San Antonio, and a disappointing end for the Thunder.

West No.2 seed: The Thunder are locked into the West No.2 after the Spurs clinched.

With the bottom of the West looking more and more like the Mavericks and then the Jazz, getting the No.2 might not be that bad. The Mavs are an inconsistent mess and are missing most of the reasons they toppled the Thunder last year, while the Jazz are dynamic and hungry. You know, the kind of team that the Spurs have nightmares about after last year. The Grizzlies were better than this Jazz team, but it's still not a bad land to get the Mavs or Nuggets.

West No.3, No.4, and No.5 seeds: The Lakers won Sunday night, and in doing so clinched no worse than the fourth seed. A Clippers win over New Orleans kept the Clippers' narrow window propped open for another two days. The Lakers' magic number to win the West No.3 is just one.

The Grizzlies can only climb to the No.4 now. Memphis has to win out and the Clippers have to go 0-2 for Memphis to snag homecourt in the first-round. Memphis beat the Cavs Monday night to get halfway there on their end. The Clippers visit Atlanta who has nothing left to play for Tuesday night, except homecourt advantage over a team that will likely have more fans in Atlanta's arena than Atlanta, sadly. A Clippers loss clinches the No.3 seed for the Lakers, while a Clippers win locks the Grizzlies into the No.5 seed.

West No.6 and No.7 seeds: The Denver win over Orlando... doesn't really change much for them. A half-game ahead of Dallas with three games left on their schedule, but Dallas has the tiebreaker.

The Nuggets' magic number is two. A loss to OKC on Tuesday means they'll need a Mavericks' loss to Atlanta and a win over Minnesota Thursday to win the seventh. Denver needs to avoid Oklahoma City as much as possible. It's a nightmare set of matchups for them, as evidenced by last year's first-round series.

There's a remote possiblity that the Jazz could wind up in the seventh if Denver lost two and Utah won two.

West No. 8: Houston lost to Miami. They have been eliminated. Thanks for joining us, Houston, and enjoy your parting gifts.

It's down to Utah vs. Phoenix on Tuesday. A Utah win clinches at least the 8th for the Jazz. A Phoenix win means the Suns need a win or a Jazz loss Thursday to sneak into the 8th spot. Phoenix cannot climb higher than the 8th.
 
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