The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't made the NBA postseason since LeBron James' departure following the 2017-18 season. However, they are a surprise contender in the Eastern Conference this season, currently holding on to the No. 6 seed.
James' Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, are struggling to hold onto a play-in spot. Los Angeles was widely expected to be a title contender this year, but the trade for Russell Westbrook has been a flop and team chemistry has been hard to find.
This paints a pretty good picture of the unpredictable NBA season that has been. The real meaningful action, though, has yet to begin.
The regular season is a grind, and it pales in comparison to playoff basketball. As the campaign winds down, several squads are destined for the playoffs proper. The play-in tournament is back, though, so only the top six seeds in each conference are guaranteed to move on. The Nos. 7-10 spots in both the East and West will battle to see who joins them.
Let's take a look at the current NBA standings, along with more on the postseason picture.


1. Miami Heat (47-26, clinched playoff berth)
2. Philadelphia 76ers (45-27)
3. Milwaukee Bucks (45-27)
4. Boston Celtics (46-28)
5. Chicago Bulls (42-30)
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-31)
7. Toronto Raptors (40-32)
8. Brooklyn Nets (38-35)
9. Charlotte Hornets (37-36)
10. Atlanta Hawks (36-37)
11. New York Knicks (31-42)
12. Washington Wizards (30-41)
13. Indiana Pacers (25-48, eliminated)
14. Detroit Pistons (20-53, eliminated)
15. Orlando Magic (20-54, eliminated)
Western Conference
1. Phoenix Suns (59-14, clinched playoff berth)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (50-23)
3. Golden State Warriors (48-25)
4. Utah Jazz (45-28)
5. Dallas Mavericks (45-28)
6. Denver Nuggets (43-30)
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-32)
8. Los Angeles Clippers (36-38)
9. Los Angeles Lakers (31-42)
10. New Orleans Pelicans (30-42)
11. San Antonio Spurs (29-44)
12. Portland Trail Blazers (27-45)
13. Sacramento Kings (26-48)
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-52)
15. Houston Rockets (18-55, eliminated)
and playoff positioning via

Current Play-In Tournament
Play-in Game 1: No. 8 Brooklyn Nets at No. 7 Toronto Raptors (winner would play No. 2 seed)
Play-in Game 2: No. 10 Atlanta Hawks at No. 9 Charlotte Hornets (loser eliminated)
Play-in Game 3: Game 2 winner at Game 1 loser (winner would play No. 1 seed)
If the regular season ended today, the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets would be in the play-in tournament. Toronto has a viable shot at moving into the playoff field, though, having won six of its last 10 games.
The Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls could both slide into the play-in field. Cleveland has lost five of its last 10, while Chicago is 3-7 in the same stretch.
Brooklyn is another team that could move into the playoff field, but it needs help. The good news for the Nets, though, is that star point guard Kyrie Irving

is set to play in home games following an amendment to New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 
This could make Brooklyn a legitimate title contender, whether it reaches the postseason via a play-in win or not.
Things are a little trickier for the Hawks and Hornets, who are long shots to avoid the play-in tournament. They are, however, close to locking up play-in berths. The New York Knicks have the best chance of sneaking into the play-in field, and they're currently five games back from Atlanta with nine to play.
Only three teams in the East have officially been eliminated, though, so we could be in for a wild finish.

Current Play-In Tournament
Play-in Game 1: No. 8 L.A. Clippers at No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves (winner would play No. 2 seed)
Play-in Game 2: No. 10 New Orleans Pelicans at No. 9 L.A. Lakers (loser eliminated)
Play-in Game 3: Game 2 winner at Game 1 loser (winner would play No. 1 seed)
If the season ended today, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans and the Lakers would be in the Western Conference play-in tournament. Of this group, only the Timberwolves have a fair shot at pushing into the playoff pool.
Minnesota is only a game-and-a-half back from the Denver Nuggets, though the Timberwolves have lost two in a row.
The Lakers have a very slim chance of catching the Clippers for the No. 8 seed, but they're likely locked into a loser-goes-home game. The Clippers are in a funk, losing four straight, but both L.A. teams have lost seven of their last 10. The Lakers are more likely to fall out of the play-in tournament completely.
James' squad is only two games ahead of the 11th-seed San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers' upcoming game against New Orleans suddenly becomes a must-win.
"It's going to be a playoff-type of atmosphere for us because it's definitely a must-win, I believe, for our group," Westbrook said, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
While the Spurs have the best chance to slide into the play-in tournament, the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings aren't far behind. The Houston Rockets have already been eliminated, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are likely to soon join them.
The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.
The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.




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