Most NBA teams have two games left before the end of the regular season and the playoffs begin. Here are the possible playoff scenarios for the teams involved in trying to make the playoffs (Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets) and those in positional and seeding battles (Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks), as all 8 spots in the East are already clinched.
Current NBA standings (it helps figure things out…)
One thing worth mentioning regarding all the Hawks-Heat-Celtics thing for the 3-4-5 seeds: If there is a multi team tie, the division winner still gets first tiebreaker, even over head-to-head record. So should Boston, Miami and Atlanta tie, Miami would get the 3 seed, Atlanta the 4 and Boston the 5.
Raptors & Cavs: For the Raptors to finish first in the East, they’ll need the Cavaliers to lose twice. Cleveland face Atlanta and Detroit at home. Raptors play Philadelphia and Brooklyn to close out the season.
Atlanta Hawks: Right now the Hawks are third in the East with a 48-32 record, one game ahead of the Heat and Celtics. They’ll finish third if they win one of their remaining games (at Cleveland, at Washington).
Boston Celtics: For the Celtics to finish third in the East, they need to win out (home to Charlotte and Miami) and for the Hawks to lose out.
Heat: Pretty much in the same position as Boston. Beating Boston (they also play Detroit on the road) should give them the number 4 seed, but they need the Hawks to lose one in order to finish 3, while they win both their games.
Hornets: Playing Boston on the road and Orlando at home for the finish. Right now are sixth, two games behind the Hawks. They can only move up as high as fifth if they win both their games, while their tiebreaker situation with everyone but Miami isn’t in their favor.
Pacers & Pistons: Same record (43-37). Indiana own the regular season series (3-1). Pacers play Knicks and Milwaukee to finish. Pistons have Miami and Cleveland.
The 5th seed problem: It’s down to Memphis, Portland and Dallas, who aren’t even a lock in the playoffs yet. So what’s going down? Portland have one more game, facing Minnesota. Dallas play in Utah (super important) and home to San Antonio. Grizzlies are on the road against Clippers & Warriors. Not good for them. But at least they’re in.
If Portland goes 1-0, they are fifth.
If Portland goes 0-1, Dallas goes 2-0, and Memphis goes 2-0, Memphis is sixth, Dallas is sixth, Portland is seventh.
If Portland goes 0-1, Dallas goes 2-0, and Memphis goes 1-1, Dallas is fifth, Portland is sixth, Memphis is seventh.
If Portland goes 0-1, Dallas goes 1-1, and Memphis goes 1-1, Portland is fifth, Memphis is sixth, Dallas is seventh.
If Portland goes 0-1, Dallas goes 0-2, Memphis goes 0-2, Portland is fifth, Memphis is at least sixth, and Dallas is at least seventh.
If Portland goes 0-1, Dallas goes 1-1, and Memphis goes 2-0, Memphis is fifth, Portland is sixth, Dallas is seventh.
If Portland goes 0-1, Dallas goes 1-1, and Memphis goes 0-2, Portland is fifth, Dallas is sixth, Memphis is at least seventh.
The final spots: Dallas aren’t a lock in the playoffs yet, but with a two game advantage, all they need is one more win, or for the Houston Rockets to lose once in order to feel safe. The Jazz, with one game over the Rockets, will clinch the playoff spot by winning both remaining games (vs Dallas and Lakers). A win for them and a Rockets loss on their next game (away to Minnesota) clinches it for them too.