NBA tiebreakers for playoff seeding: Nuggets, Wolves meet with playoff berth on the line

With just one day left in the regular season, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty before the playoff show gets on the road. Welcome to the wonderful world of tiebreakers, where divisions still matter and the Western Conference standings are extremely confusing. 

On Wednesday, the Timberwolves host the Nuggets in what amounts to a play-in game. The other matchups with seeding implications: The Cavaliers host the Knicks, The Wizards visit the Magic, the Heat host the Raptors, the Bucks visit the 76ers, The Pelicans host the Spurs, the Jazz visit the Blazers and the Thunder host the Grizzlies.

Portland and Utah are playing for the No. 3 seed in the Western conference. Philadelphia can clinch No. 3 in the Eastern Conference with a win. If Miami, Milwaukee and Washington all finish with the same record, then Milwaukee will fall from sixth to eighth and could lose its draft pick. Here are all the playoff scenarios, via the NBA's official Twitter account:

NOTE: The full NBA rules for tiebreakers can be found here, but here's what you need to know: When two teams are tied, the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head season series. If they split the series, then it matters whether you won your division and, potentially, how you fared against other teams from your division.

Eastern Conference NBA tiebreakers

1. Toronto Raptors (59-22)

  • Locked, first seed

2. Boston Celtics (54-27)

  • Locked, second seed

3. Philadelphia 76ers (51-30)

  • Split series: Cavaliers (2-2)
  • Note: If they win their final game against Milwaukee, they finish third  

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (50-31)

  • Split series: 76ers (2-2)
  • Note: They own tiebreaker against 76ers because they won their division; final game is against New York

5. Indiana Pacers (48-33)

  • Locked, fifth seed

6. Milwaukee Bucks (44-37)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Heat (3-0)
  • Split series: Wizards (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against Philadelphia; 6-10 division record

7. Miami Heat (43-38)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Bucks (3-0)
  • Split series: Wizards (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against Toronto; 11-5 division record

8. Washington Wizards (43-38)

  • Split series: Heat (2-2), Bucks (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against Orlando; 8-7 division record

Western Conference NBA tiebreakers

1. Houston Rockets (65-16)

  • Locked, first seed

2. Golden State Warriors (58-24)

  • Locked, second seed

3. Portland Trail Blazers (48-33)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (4-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (2-1), Spurs (2-1)
  • Split series: Pelicans (2-2)
  • Note: If they win their final game against Utah, they finish third; 8-7 division record

4. Utah Jazz (48-33)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Spurs (3-1), Pelicans (3-1), Blazers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Thunder (3-1)
  • Note: If they win their final game against Portland, they finish third; 7-8 division record

5. New Orleans Pelicans (47-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Spurs (2-1), Thunder (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Timberwolves (4-0), Nuggets (2-1)
  • Split series: Blazers (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against San Antonio; 8-7 division record

6. San Antonio Spurs (47-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Timberwolves (2-1), Blazers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Split series: Thunder (2-2), Nuggets (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against New Orleans; 9-6 division record

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Jazz (3-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Timberwolves (3-1), Pelicans (2-1), Nuggets (3-1), Blazers (4-0)
  • Split series: Spurs (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against Memphis; 5-11 division record

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (46-35)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (3-1), Pelicans (4-0), Nuggets (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Spurs (2-1)
  • Note: Final game is against Denver with playoff seed on the line; 9-6 division record

9. Denver Nuggets (46-35)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (3-1), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Timberwolves (2-1)
  • Split series: Spurs (2-2)
  • Note: Final game is against Minnesota with playoff seed on the line; 9-6 division record
CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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