Playoff picture still not in focus with two days left in season, here’s what to look for
The Indiana Pacers will face the Boston Celtics.
That’s it. That’s all we know. Well, that and LeBron James will not be participating.
When the NBA playoffs start this weekend, Indiana will travel to Boston for the start of that series.
We’re 80 or 81 games into the NBA season (depending on the team) and literally no other matchup is set in the NBA’s playoff picture. How complex is it? Look at the spreadsheet the league sent out to help media members and others understand the possibilities.
This is what the league office wants, it’s drama. It has fan bases involved all the way through the season. It’s something the league can sell as parity, even if we all know there’s not really parity in the NBA in the sense of how fans would describe it.
To be fair, we know a couple of other things heading into the final two days of the season. In the East, we know the top five seeds: Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston, Indiana. In the West, we know the Golden State Warriors are the top seed, and we know which are the eight playoff teams. However, there is no seeding set beyond the top one.
Here’s what to watch.
There is one playoff spot left open, the eight seed in the East. The Detroit Pistons sit in that spot, one game ahead of both Miami and Charlotte, with two games to play. The Pistons control their own destiny — beat Memphis and New York over the next two days and Detroit goes to the playoffs (it’s even possible they pass Orlando for the seven seed, if the Magic help out with a loss Wednesday). However, if Detroit loses one of those games — and Memphis is trying to win in an effort to make it more likely they convey their first-round pick to Boston this year — then the doors open for Charlotte and Miami. And it gets complicated. The NBA’s spreadsheet shows 64 possible remaining scenarios that could play out between the Nets, Magic, Pistons, Hornets, and Heat over the final two days of the regular season (both who gets in and the order of seeding).
The West is even more complicated.
At the bottom of the conference, just half a game separates the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers, who will finish as the 6-7-8 seeds. Probably. They can finish in literally any order, and there are even a couple of scenarios where the Thunder leap past the Jazz into the five seed and Utah gets to be sixth.
Denver is the No. 2 seed, but is just half a game up on the Rockets who sit third, with Portland just one more game back at No. 4. Denver rested key players on Sunday in a loss to Portland that raised a lot of questions about who the Nuggets were trying to line themselves up to face (even if that loss opened the door for the Rockets a little to get the two seed). Was Denver trying to pump up Portland and help the handful of scenarios where the Trail Blazers jump the Rockets to get the three seed, in essence giving the Nuggets a potentially easier second round matchup (and putting the Rockets on the Warriors’ side of the bracket)?
The Jazz seem locked into the five seed, but there are scenarios where Utah wins its final two games, Houston and Portland stumble, and the Jazz jump up to the four seed and host a playoff series.
Just look at all the scenarios.
It’s more complicated than how Avril Lavigne ever had a hit with that song.
It’s also going to make for an exciting final couple of days in the NBA’s regular season.