With the 2021-22 NBA regular season set to wrap up next weekend, teams are making their final pushes for a spot in the playoffs, and we saw some exciting matchups in both conferences on Saturday.
The Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors walked away with wins, helping their playoff chances and seeding in their respective conferences mightily. And even though they lost, the Brooklyn Nets (along with the Warriors) clinched a spot in the postseason.
That said, let’s take a look at the updated Eastern and Western Conference standings entering Sunday’s action and the final week of the regular season.
1. Miami Heat: 50-28
2. Milwaukee Bucks: 48-29
3. Boston Celtics: 48-30
4. Philadelphia 76ers: 47-30
5. Toronto Raptors: 45-32
6. Chicago Bulls: 45-33
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: 43-35
8. Atlanta Hawks: 41-37
9. Charlotte Hornets: 40-38
10. Brooklyn Nets: 40-38
Saturday’s action resulted in some movement in the Eastern Conference, most notably with the Brooklyn Nets securing a spot in the play-in tournament despite a 122-115 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Nets now have the opportunity to rise as high as eighth in the Eastern Conference standings to clinch a home game for the play-in round. Brooklyn has four games remaining, and three of the teams it will face have been eliminated from the postseason.
Wins over the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers should propel the team higher than 10th in the East. However, perhaps the Nets’ most significant matchup will come against the Cavaliers, who could also land in the play-in tournament on April 8.
A win over Cleveland would be huge for Brooklyn’s hopes of getting a home game in the play-in tournament, and considering the Cavs have lost five of their last seven games, they’re vulnerable.
However, the Cavaliers helped themselves on Saturday by defeating the New York Knicks 119-101. With just a two-game deficit to the Chicago Bulls, they have an outside shot of securing the No 6 seed.
Still, Cleveland has a pretty difficult schedule, with games against the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, in addition to the Nets and Orlando Magic.
Another significant matchup in the East came between the Miami Heat and Bulls. Miami took down Chicago 127-109 to remain atop the conference standings, though it impacted the Bulls much more than it did the Heat.
Miami is already locked into a playoff spot. Chicago, meanwhile, could still drop into the play-in tournament if all goes wrong.
The Bulls have a difficult schedule ahead, too, with matchups against the Bucks, Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Luckily for Chicago, Cleveland has just as difficult of a schedule.
The Sixers defeated the Hornets 144-114 on Saturday, and they sit just 2.5 games behind the Heat for first in the East. With games against the Cavaliers, Pacers, Raptors and Detroit Pistons on tap to end the season, Philadelphia may swipe the No. 1 spot from Miami.
As for the Hornets, they are locked into a play-in spot but have a difficult schedule ahead with games against the Heat, Magic, Bulls and Washington Wizards. It’s hard to imagine Charlotte grabbing the top play-in spot based on their final schedule.
1. Phoenix Suns: 62-15
2. Memphis Grizzlies: 55-23
3. Golden State Warriors: 49-29
4. Dallas Mavericks: 48-30
5. Utah Jazz: 46-32
6. Denver Nuggets: 46-32
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 44-34
8. Los Angeles Clippers: 38-40
9. New Orleans Pelicans: 34-43
10. San Antonio Spurs: 32-45
The only Western Conference teams in action on Saturday were the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz. The Warriors defeated the Jazz 111-107 to clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2019.
Golden State currently sits third in the West with a 49-29 record, but it can’t pass the Suns or the Grizzlies in the standings. However, with games against the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans to close out the regular season, the Dubs should be able to lock in the third spot by winning out.
However, the fourth-place Dallas Mavericks are within striking distance of the No. 3 spot. With games against the Bucks, Pistons, Portland Trail Blazers and Spurs to close out the regular season, Dallas is certainly going to put pressure on Golden State.
Saturday’s game between Golden State and Utah had larger implications for the Jazz, who could potentially drop into a play-in spot. The team has struggled of late, too, losing six of its last seven games.
With games against the Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Suns and Trail Blazers to close out the regular season, there’s no guarantee Utah secures a top-six seed before April 10.
That said, the Jazz won’t drop below seventh in the West, as three of the four current play-in teams have losing records.
Prediction: 7. Nuggets 8. Clippers 9. Pelicans 10. Lakers
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