With just more than two weeks left in the regular season, the NBA’s playoff picture is starting to come into focus. Sort of. Here is where things stand as of Monday morning.
Boston, with its easy win over Philadelphia, moved three games up in the Atlantic division, ahead of both Philly and New York. Barring an Atlanta Braves-like collapse, the Celtics will win the Atlantic — which means at least the No. 4 seed. Which means avoiding Miami or Chicago in the first round. Right now, Boston would get Atlanta in the first round (but the five-seed Hawks would get the home court due to a better record).
Philly is in danger of sliding right out of the playoffs all together — they are now the eight seed and just one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks. Philly is tied with New York, but the Knicks are on an uptick and winning games — although the Wednesday showdown between the Bucks and Knicks will be big.
There may be some shifting in the middle in the East — Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando are all within 1.5 games of each other. But it’s hard to see those three being anything but the three, five and six seeds — they are six games back of the two seed Heat and four games up on the seven seed Knicks.
If the playoffs started today in the East it would be:
Bulls vs. Sixers
Heat vs. Knicks
Pacers vs. Magic
Celtics vs. Hawks (Atlanta has home court)
Out in the West, San Antonio and Oklahoma City remain tied at the top. The Lakers and Clippers are in a battle for the three and four seeds — the Lakers are half-a-game ahead (and have the tie-breaker) right now. But they both better look over their shoulder at the hot Memphis Grizzlies, who are two games back of the Lakers.
At the bottom of the West it is a crowded mess — Houston is the six seed, Dallas the seven and Denver the eight and they are all within a game of each other. Phoenix is one game back of the Nuggets and the Jazz are just half-a-game behind the Suns (after a loss to the Spurs Sunday). It feels like Denver is slipping out, but they have beaten the Bulls recently and are capable of big wins. Unless someone goes on a big losing streak, this is going to come down to the last week.
If the playoffs started today we would see:
Spurs vs. Nuggets
Thunder vs. Mavericks
Lakers vs. Rockets
Clippers vs. Grizzlies