NBA Playoff Picture and Magic Numbers: It all comes down to this
Final night of NBA action will decide nine spots for the NBA playoffs. A look at scenarios and matchups.
Results entering Wednesday's games (April 16):
Clinched playoff berth: Pacers, Miami Heat , San Antonio Spurs , Oklahoma City Thunder , Los Angeles Clippers , Toronto Raptors , Chicago Bulls , Brooklyn Nets , Washington Wizards , Rockets, Charlotte Hornets , Trail Blazers , Golden State Warriors , Atlanta Hawks , Dallas Mavericks , Memphis Grizzlies
Clinched division title, top-four seed: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors
Clinched home-court advantage, first-round: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors, Bulls, Rockets
Current matchups (locked seeds in caps):
PACERS (1) vs. HAWKS (8)
HEAT (2) vs. Bobcats (7)
Raptors (3) vs. Wizards (6)
Bulls (4) vs. Nets (5)
SPURS (1) vs. Grizzlies (8)
Thunder (2) vs. Mavericks (7)
Clippers (3) vs. WARRIORS (6)
ROCKETS (4) vs. TRAIL BLAZERS (5)
EASTERN CONFERENCE RUNDOWN
No. 1 Pacers vs. No. 8 Hawks
Season record: Split season series 2-2. Hawks with a plus-3.8 point differential.
Atlanta matches up great on paper, considering their blowout of Indiana late in the season at home. In a playoff series, you have to believe it will be different, even if Indiana is still struggling.
If Al Horford were playing, this would be a great series, and the Hawks would have a punchers' chance. But Paul Millsap will likely be negated by David West , and Pero Antic can stretch the floor but not enough to make up for the Pacers' superior firepower. The Hawks have no one to guard Paul George . It's going to take a crazy team effort for the Hawks to make this a series.
No. 1: Pacers (LOCKED), No. 2 Heat (LOCKED)
East Nos. 3-4: Raptors, Bulls
Raptors and Bulls won, so Toronto's magic number for the 3-seed and a potential matchup with Miami in the second-round is one. A win or Bulls loss Wednesday and Toronto is the 3, Chicago the 4.
A Raptors loss and a Bulls win and the Raptors move into the four-spot as the Bulls take third.
Interestingly, the Nets seem to be tanking to move to six and avoid Chicago. The Bulls tip an hour earlier than the Raptors so if they're winning handily over the Bobcats (who may rest starters), and the Nets are losing to Cleveland, Toronto could tank their fourth quarter and put the Nets against the 3-seed Bulls, just to show 'em, and give themselves the Wizards. It's unlikely, but it's possible.
Relevant games Wednesday: The Raptors are in New York to face the New York Knicks who beat them two weeks ago in Toronto. Carmelo Anthony is out and Amar'e Stoudemire is expected to rest, with the Knicks on a back to back.
The Bulls are in Charlotte to take on the Bobcats.
East Nos. 5-7: Nets, Wizards, Bobcats
The Nets loss Tuesday sets up these scenarios: If the Nets lose their final game, and the Wizards wins Wednesday, the Wizards get fifth, the Nets get sixth, the Bobcats get seventh.
If the Nets win their final game and Washington wins its final game, the Nets get fifth, the Wizards sixth, the Bobcats seventh.
If Washington loses and the Bobcats win, the Nets get fifth, the Bobcats get sixth via tiebreaker and the Wizards get seventh.
If the Bobcats lose, the Wizards clinch no worse than sixth.
The Bobcats can't finish higher than sixth.
Relevant games Wednesday: Washington tips at the same time as the Nets, so they won't know the outcome of either that game or Bulls-Bobcats or Raptors-Knicks when they they play. But if in the fourth quarter, they're in a close game with Boston (I know, but it's in Boston, and the Boston Celtics do weird things), then they'll know by the end of the game whether the Bulls have won. If the Bulls have won, that means the Cats will have lost, and they can safely sit starters, get the sixth seed, and face presumably Toronto (assuming the Raptors beat the Knicks).
If the Bobcats beat the Bulls, clinching the Bulls as the fourth seed, Washington won't have a choice. They'll have to beat Boston to make sure they don't fall behind the Bobcats and wind up facing Miami.
So if the Bobcats win, the Nets can safely tank and not have to worry about facing Chicago unless the Wizards lose.
Brooklyn plays Cleveland.
The reality is the teams will mostly just kind of do whatever they need for rest and let everything else sort itself out.
East No. 8 Hawks (LOCKED)
The Hawks finished 2-2 against Indiana in the regular season.
WESTERN CONFERENCE RUNDOWN
Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)
Season series: Rockets won 3-1, with a plus-6.5 point differential.
Portland doesn't have home court advantage, so that's bad. The Rockets overall have a lot of matchup advantages. An example? It's regulars season, so that comes with caveats, but Jeremy Lin has a plus-15.5 net efficiency in four games vs. Portland this year. Lin's supposed to be the weakspot. The Blazers can score a little bit on Houston (as most teams can) but can't stop them at all. Dwight Howard averaged 25.5 points per game vs. Portland, James Harden averaged over 30. This is a nightmare matchup for Portland, at least from the outside.
West No. 1 Spurs (LOCKED)
The Spurs win over Phoenix on Friday clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
West Nos. 2-3: Thunder, Clippers
The Thunder's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday made this more interesting. The Clippers still have a very real shot at the 2-seed.
If OKC loses Wednesday, the Clippers can clinch the two-seed by beating Portland.
If OKC wins Wednesday vs. Detroit, or if the Clippers lose to the Blazers, the Thunder clinch the No. 2 seed.
Relevant games Wednesday: Oklahoma is at home vs. the Detroit Pistons . I'd say there's no way they lose that game, but the Thunder just lost to the Pelicans.
The Clippers face the Blazers who have nothing left to play for and will be resting starters most likely.
West No. 4 Rockets (LOCKED), No. 5 Trail Blazers (LOCKED)
The Rockets clinched the No. 4 seed with their win vs. San Antonio, which rested some regulars, on Monday. They have home court in the first round. Game 1 is at Houston this weekend.
West No. 6 Warriors (LOCKED)
The Warriors win vs. Minnesota on Monday clinched the sixth spot. They're locked there and will play either the Clippers or Oklahoma City on the road in Game 1.
West Nos. 7-8 Mavericks, Grizzlies
Memphis beat the Phoenix Suns on Monday, eliminating Phoenix.
The Grizzlies are tied with Dallas at 49-32 and play the Mavs on Wednesday. After Golden State's win, Dallas and Memphis decide Nos. 7-8 on Wednesday.
The winner faces Oklahoma City or the Clippers, with the loser getting the top-seeded Spurs.
Relevant games Wednesday: Memphis faces Dallas with the seventh seed and the chance to get out of the Spurs' way at stake. Both teams have a puncher's chance vs. the Thunder based on matchups. They have almost no shot vs. San Antonio, and they both know it.
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