NBA playoff picture, standings, magic numbers: Lakers keep top-six hopes alive; Celtics face must-win Tuesday

The last few days have been good to the Utah Jazz. First they beat the Houston Rockets on Saturday, then the Phoenix Suns lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. The result: Utah holds a two-game lead over Phoenix with four to play for the No. 1 seed, and given the way the West is shaking out, that could be a very big deal. As current seeds stand, Utah would be on the opposite side of the bracket from the Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, meaning the Jazz wouldn’t see any of those teams until the conference finals. 

Also, the Lakers kept their hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament alive with a giant win over the Suns on Sunday. They now trail the No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers by one game with four to play, though Portland does own the tiebreaker, making that gap effectively two games. 

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A quick reminder on the NBA’s new play-in format: The top six seeds in each conference are in, with the final two seeds up for grabs via the new play-in tournament. In each conference, No. 7 will play No. 8 with the winner getting the No. 7 seed. The loser will then play the winner of 9 vs. 10 for the No. 8 seed.

Below is what the playoff picture looks like entering play on Monday, May 10. Teams are listed in order of current seed along with the SportsLine projected finishing seed and different magic number scenarios. A “playoff spot” means a top-six seed. This post will continue to update for the remainder of the season as we keep track of these races down to the wire. 

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times to produce the most unbiased and precise projections possible.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

1. Utah Jazz

The Jazz hold a two-game lead over No. 2 Phoenix for the No. 1 overall seed. With four games to play, Utah can seal the top spot by going 3-1 over those final four (vs. Warriors, Blazers, Thunder and Kings). If they go 2-2 or worse, the Suns, who own the tiebreaker, can still pass Utah by sweeping their final four. Utah has clinched at least a top-two seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 3Strength of remaining schedule: 21stProjected seed: No. 1

2. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix tried to make a game late against the Lakers on Sunday, but came up short. The Suns now trail the No. 1 Jazz by two games with four to play (vs. Blazers, Warriors and Spurs twice). Phoenix owns the tiebreaker over Utah and has clinched a top-four seed and can clinch a top-two seed with two more wins, two Clippers losses, or one win and one Clippers loss.

Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 15th
Projected seed: No. 2

3. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have a one-game lead over the No. 4 Nuggets with four games to play. Denver owns the tiebreaker, so that race is still very much in question. The Clippers have clinched a top-four seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 3 seed: 4Strength of remaining schedule: 30thProjected seed: No. 3

4. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets trail the No. 3 Clippers by one in the loss column with four games to play and the tiebreaker in hand. Denver can clinch a top four seed with one more win or one Dallas loss. 

Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 1
Strength of remaining schedule: 26thProjected seed: No. 4

The Mavericks, who have won 10 of their last 12 games, lead the No. 6 Blazers by one game (Portland owns the tiebreaker). Dallas has a two-game lead over the No. 7 Lakers with the tiebreaker in hand, making that lead effectively three games unless it comes down to a three-way tie between Dallas, Portland and the Lakers, in which case different tiebreak rules apply. Dallas can clinch a top-six seed with two more wins, or one win and one Lakers loss. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 25thProjected seed: No. 5

6. Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers are one game back of No. 5 Dallas and one game up on the No. 7 Lakers with the tiebreaker over both secured. Portland has clinched a spot in the play-in tournament. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 3Strength of remaining schedule: 8thProjected seed: No. 6

(Current play-in teams)

7. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers kept their top-six hopes very much alive with a massive win over the Suns on Sunday. The Lakers are one game back of the No. 6 Blazers, but Portland owns the tiebreaker, so that gap is effectively two games with four to play. The Lakers trail the No. 5 Mavericks by two games, but again, Dallas owns the tiebreaker, so that gap is effectively three. The Lakers have clinched at least a play-in berth, but do not control their own destiny for a top-six seed. 

Strength of remaining schedule: 17thProjected seed: No. 7

8. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have a tough road if they’re going to hang onto the No. 8 seed, which is big because it would give them two chances to win one play-in game and make the postseason field. Falling to No. 9 would mean having to sweep two play-in games. Golden State is tied in the loss column with No. 9 Memphis with four games to play. Two of those games are a back-to-back against Utah and Phoenix (both still battling for the No. 1 seed) beginning Monday night, and another is a head-to-head with Memphis on the final day of the season that could very well determine the No. 9 seed. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 4thProjected seed: No. 8

Memphis is tied in the loss column with the No. 8 Warriors (who have a higher win percentage at the moment) with the season series tied 1-1 and one matchup left on the last day of the season. Memphis has a two-loss lead over No. 10 San Antonio, but with the tiebreaker already secured, that lead is effectively three. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 19thProjected seed: No. 9

10. San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio leads No. 11 New Orleans by two in the loss column with the tiebreaker in hand, making that lead effectively three games, with five to play. 

Magic number to clinch play-in series: 3Strength of remaining schedule: 1stProjected seed: No. 10

(Clinging to play-in life)

11. New Orleans Pelicans — Two losses back of No. 10 San Antonio (Spurs have the tiebreaker).12. Sacramento Kings — Three losses back of No. 10 San Antonio (Spurs have the tiebreaker).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

The Sixers have a three-loss lead over the No. 2 Nets (Philly owns tiebreaker) and No. 3 Bucks (Milwaukee owns tiebreaker) with four games to play. The No. 1 seed is all but sealed for the Sixers with two games — almost certain victories — remaining against the Orlando Magic. 

Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 28thProjected seed: No. 1

2. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are tied with the No. 3 Bucks in the loss column, The Bucks own the tiebreaker, but for the moment Brooklyn has played one more game and leads via win percentage. The Nets have clinched a top-three seed. 

Strength of remaining schedule: 27thProjected seed: No. 3

3. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are tied in the loss column with the Nets and own the tiebreaker. They trail Brooklyn for the moment via win percentage but control their own destiny for the No. 2 seed. The Bucks have clinched a top-three seed. 

Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 5Strength of remaining schedule: 22ndProjected seed: No. 2

The Knicks are officially ruled out for a top-three seed. New York leads the No. 5 Hawks by one in the loss column, but with the tiebreaker secured, that lead is effectively two. The bigger concern would appear to be the No. 6 Heat, who are also just one game back of the Knicks and own the tiebreaker, but SportsLine projections actually have Atlanta passing New York for home-court advantage in the first round. The Knicks have clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2
Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 4Strength of remaining schedule: 16thProjected seed: No. 5

5. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are one game back of the No. 4 Knicks, who own the tiebreaker. Our SportsLine projections have Atlanta jumping New York by season’s end, but nobody in Atlanta is resting easy. The Hawks are tied in the loss column with No. 6 Miami and lead the No. 7 Celtics by two games, but, again, the good news is Atlanta owns the tiebreaker over both. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 30thProjected seed: No. 4

6. Miami Heat

The Heat claimed a huge win over the Celtics on Sunday, stretching their cushion over Boston to two games with the season series tied 1-1 and one head-to-head matchup remaining Tuesday night. If the Heat win that game on Tuesday, they seal the No. 6 seed. Miami has already clinched a spot in the play-in tournament.

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 11thProjected seed: No. 6

(Current play-in teams)

7. Boston Celtics

Boston fell to Miami on Sunday. The Celtics now face a must-win game against the Heat — whom they trail by two games with the season series tied 1-1 — on Tuesday. If Miami wins that game, Boston can’t get out of the play-in tournament. The Celtics have clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

Strength of remaining schedule: 23rdProjected seed: No. 7

Charlotte has a one-loss lead over No. 9 Washington with the tiebreaker in hand, making that an effective two-game gap. The Hornets also lead No. 10 Indiana by one in the loss column and own the tiebreaker. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 6thProjected seed: No. 8

The Wizards are tied in the loss column with No. 9 Indiana with the tiebreaker secured. The Wizards trail No. 8 Charlotte by one, but the Hornets have the tiebreaker, making that gap an effective two games. The Wizards are pretty safe to make the play-in with a three-loss lead over the No. 11 Bulls, though Chicago does own the tiebreaker if it comes to that. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 20thProjected seed: No. 9

The Pacers trail the No. 8 Hornets by one in the loss column, but Charlotte owns the tiebreaker, so that deficit is effectively two. Indiana is tied in the loss column with No. 9 Washington, which has also secured the tiebreaker over the Pacers. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 3Strength of remaining schedule: 13thProjected seed: No. 10

(Outside looking in)

11. Chicago Bulls — Three losses back of No. 10 Indiana and No. 9 Washington with the tiebreaker over both secured. 

Published: 2021-05-10 20:46:26

Tags: #NBA #playoff #picture #standings #magic #numbers #Lakers #topsix #hopes #alive #Celtics #face #mustwin #Tuesday

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