NBA playoff seedings primer: What is at stake in every game Sunday

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With one day left in the NBA season — one game left for every team — we know just three things for sure: Philadelphia is the No. 1 seed in the East, Boston is the No. 7 seed in that same conference, and San Antonio is the No 10 seed in the West.

That’s it. That’s the only NBA playoff seedings that are settled. We know the 10 teams in each conference that will make the play-in or playoffs, but who will face whom in the first round is still very much up in the air.

Here is what is at stake when it comes to NBA playoff seedings Sunday (we did not list every game, for example, the Philadelphia vs. Orlando game outcome doesn’t matter).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

The Knicks control their own destiny: Win and they secure the four seed in the East and will get to host a first-round series at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks and Hawks are tied at 41-30, but the Knicks have the tiebreaker. Miami is one game behind both of them. If the Knicks lose, they could fall to fifth if Atlanta wins and all the way to sixth if Miami also wins (the Heat and Knicks would be tied in this scenario, but Miami has the tiebreaker). The game is meaningless to the Celtics, who are locked in as the seven seed.

Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors, 1 p.m.

If Indiana wins it will be the ninth seed in the East and will host the loser of the Washington/Charlotte game in a win-or-go-home play-in game on Tuesday. If the Pacers lose they will be the 10 seed (because both the Wizards and Hornets have tiebreakers over them) and will have to travel to that play-in game. Toronto has been eliminated from the playoffs.

Charlotte Hornets at Washington Wizards, 1 p.m.

One of the biggest games of the day: The winner clinches the eighth seed in the East and will travel to Boston for a play-in game on Tuesday. The Charlotte/Washington winner only has to win one of two play-in games to advance to the playoffs. The loser likely falls to the 10 seed (behind the Pacers, if they win as expected) and will need to win two play-in games on the road to advance to the postseason.

Houston Rockets at Atlanta Hawks, 7 p.m.

Whether Atlanta has anything to play for will depend upon how the Knicks do earlier in the day: If New York loses to Boston, then the Hawks can climb up to the four seed and host a first-round playoff series with a win. If the Knicks win (and lock up the four seed), then the Hawks are locked in as the five seed and the game is meaningless. Because the Knicks play hours earlier, the Hawks will know if they need to win before taking the court. Houston has long been eliminated from the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets, 7 p.m.

The Nets sit as the two seed, one game ahead of Milwaukee, but the Bucks have the tiebreaker. That means the Nets have to win to secure the two seed, and with it home court in the second round of the playoffs (where they likely meet Milwaukee). Cleveland has been eliminated from the playoffs.

Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons, 8 p.m.

After their loss to the Bucks on Saturday, the Heat are the sixth seed in the East (and likely destined to play those Bucks again in the first round of the playoffs). Miami will know before it takes the floor if it has anything to play for on Sunday: If New York loses earlier in the day, then a Miami win would see them climb a spot to the fifth seed and send New York down to sixth (Atlanta also would have to beat the tanking Rockets for that scenario to work out). Detroit has been eliminated from the playoffs.

Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls 8 p.m.

Milwaukee sits third in the Eastern conference, but just a game back of Brooklyn and the Bucks own the tiebreaker. If the Bucks win and the Nets fall to Cleveland, Milwaukee would get the two seed and host a potential second-round playoff series against Brooklyn. Chicago was previously eliminated from playoff contention.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs, 2 p.m.

The Suns still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the West and NBA, but they need to win this game and hope the Jazz stumble against the shorthanded Kings later in the day. Not likely, the Suns probably end up the two seed, but it gives them something to play for. San Antonio is locked in as the 10 seed in the West and will be on the road for the first play-in game Wednesday.

Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Maybe the most important and straightforward game of the day: The teams go in tied at 38-33, the winner gets the eighth seed and the loser falls to ninth. The winner will have to win just one-of-two play-in games to advance to the playoffs and will travel to face the No. 7 seed (Lakers or Blazers) on Wednesday to start the play-in games. The loser will host the Spurs on Wednesday in the 9/10 play-in game and, if they win, have to win on the road against the loser of the 7/8 game to advance to the playoffs. Lose and it is a much tougher road.

Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans, 9 p.m. (NBATV)

The Lakers come into Sunday tied with the Trail Blazers for the 6/7 seeds at 41-31, but Portland has the tiebreaker. For the Lakers to get the No. 6 spot, they need to win this game, then hope Portland loses to Denver. For the Lakers, getting the No. 6 seed means avoiding the play-in tournament and getting five or six days off. A Los Angeles loss or a Portland win means the Lakers will host a play-in game on Wednesday.

Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers, 9 p.m.

One of the few games of the day where both teams have something on the line. For Portland, win and it is the sixth seed in the West and avoids the play-in game (the Blazers are tied with the Lakers but own the tiebreaker). If the Blazers lose and the Lakers win, the Lakers get the No. 6 seed and Portland will host a play-in game on Wednesday.

For Denver, win and it is the three seed in the West… except it may prefer the four seed and to be on the other side of the bracket from the Lakers (whether they finish 6 or 7). The Nuggets and Clippers are tied at 47-24 (the Nuggets have the tiebreaker), so a Nuggets loss and a Clippers win and the Nuggets fall to the four seed. Either way, Denver hosts a first-round playoff series.

Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder, 9 p.m.

Los Angeles sat Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in a loss to Toronto Friday that dropped them to the No. 4 seed — and that may be where the Clippers want to be. The fourth seed has the Clippers on the other side of the bracket from the Lakers and sets up a potential second-round showdown with the Jazz, a team the Clippers think they match up well against. If the Clippers lose, they are the No. 4 seed. If the Clippers beat the Thunder and the Nuggets lose, the Clippers climb to the No. 3 seed. Either way, the Clippers host a first-round playoff series. The Thunder have long been eliminated from the playoffs.

Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings, 9 p.m.

Utah’s magic number to lock up the top seed in the West is one — either a Jazz win or a Suns loss does it (Utah is one game ahead of second-seeded Phoenix, but the Suns have the tiebreaker). Phoenix plays earlier in the day, Utah will know the outcome of that game before taking the court and if it needs to win this one to keep the top seed, or if this game is meaningless.

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.