Once the curtain officially drops on the 2021-22 NBA campaign, 20 teams will receive an invitation to either the postseason or the Play-In Tournament.
That will leave 10 clubs out in the cold, and nine have already received that fate. The last team to miss out will come from the three-team race for the final two Play-In spots out West.
But that's just one of several playoff races to monitor between now and Sunday's regular-season finale. To bring everyone up to speed, we'll provide a refresher on the league standings before spotlighting what to watch in each conference during the final week.
1. y-Miami Heat: 51-28
2. x-Boston Celtics: 49-30
3. x-Milwaukee Bucks: 48-30
4. x-Philadelphia 76ers: 48-30
5. Chicago Bulls: 45-33
6. Toronto Raptors: 45-33
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: 43-36
8. Atlanta Hawks: 41-37
9. pb-Charlotte Hornets: 40-38
10. pb-Brooklyn Nets: 40-38
11. e-New York Knicks: 35-44
12. e-Washington Wizards: 35-44
13. e-Indiana Pacers: 25-54
14. e-Detroit Pistons: 23-56
15. e-Orlando Magic: 20-59
1. *-Phoenix Suns: 62-16
2. y-Memphis Grizzlies: 55-23
3. x-Golden State Warriors: 50-29
4. x-Dallas Mavericks: 49-30
5. Denver Nuggets: 47-32
6. Utah Jazz: 46-32
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 45-34
8. pb-Los Angeles Clippers: 39-40
9. New Orleans Pelicans: 34-44
10. San Antonio Spurs: 33-45
11. Los Angeles Lakers: 31-47
12. e-Sacramento Kings: 29-50
13. e-Portland Trail Blazers: 27-51
14. e-Oklahoma City Thunder: 23-55
15. e-Houston Rockets: 20-59
*—clinched league best record
x—clinched playoff berth
pb—clinched Play-In berth
e—eliminated from playoff contention
Want to know the race worth watching in the East? How about all of them?
Seriously, there hasn't been much decided despite there being so little time left on the schedule. The top four seeds know they are avoiding the Play-In Tournament, the bottom five seeds know they are missing the playoffs and the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds—the Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets—know they are heading to the Play-In. As far as seeds and the other two Play-In participants, though, that's all up for grabs.
You are probably looking for more specifics, though, so let's sniff them out.
First, the traffic jam at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is all kinds of fascinating. The teams are knotted up in the loss column, so there isn't much of an advantage at this point, although the Milwaukee Bucks would currently fare best if this ended in a three-way tie. However, that is subject to change, since the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee are set to go head-to-head Thursday.
Dropping down further, the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors have identical records in their tussle for the fifth seed. Chicago has the tougher remaining slate—Toronto still gets the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks—but the Bulls do have the tiebreaker thanks to their 3-1 edge in the season series.
Finally, there will be plenty of eyeballs on Brooklyn as the team makes one last push to improve its seed. The 10th-seeded Nets are only two games back of the seventh-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the loss column, and they have one more head-to-head matchup remaining.
Any improvement to Brooklyn's seed will make it much easier to buy the notion this team can put its frustration-filled season behind it and present real problems for its playoff opponent.
The Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies are locked into their first and second seeds, respectively. The Los Angeles Clippers aren't moving out of No. 8. And the four teams at the bottom of the standings are already mapping out their summer getaways.
For everyone else, though, it's all coming down to the wire.
The Golden State Warriors are a game up on the Dallas Mavericks and three in front of the Denver Nuggets, but they don't have the head-to-head tiebreaker against either one. Golden State also doesn't have a top-eight seed left on the schedule, but neither does Dallas. The Denver Nuggets still have Memphis, but the Grizzlies have nothing left to gain.
There's only a game-and-a-half separating the Jazz from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the loser of this race will have to earn a postseason spot in the Play-In Tournament. Utah technically plays the NBA's best two teams still—Phoenix and Memphis—but both have already locked up their playoff positions, so they could prioritize rest over bragging rights.
Finally, the Los Angeles Lakers are swimming upstream in their hopes of wresting a Play-In berth from the New Orleans Pelicans or San Antonio Spurs. Los Angeles still has games with Phoenix, Golden State and Denver, and the last time the Lakers played, LeBron James couldn't suit up because of a sore left ankle.
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