With less than five games to go on the schedule for every team, the current could still see plenty of movement before the end of the regular season.
The NBA playoff pictures for the East and West are starting to look clearer at the top, but the seedings in the middle of each conference and the races for No. 8 have yet to be decided. In fact, while the top four teams in the Eastern Conference have clinched playoff berths (Cavs, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards), there are still seven teams fighting for the last four spots — well, at least mathematically they all haven’t been eliminated.
After a full Thursday slate of games, let’s take a look at the updated NBA standings and each team’s situation. (Apologies to Hornets and Pistons fans ahead of time.)
NBA standings: Eastern Conference
1. Cavs (51-27) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage in first round
2. Celtics (50-28) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage in first round
3. Raptors (48-31) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage in first round
4. Wizards (47-31) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage in first round
5. Bucks (40-38)
6. Hawks (39-38)
7. Bulls (38-40)
8. Heat (38-40)
9. Pacers (38-40)
10. Hornets (36-43)
11. Pistons (35-43)
NBA standings: Western Conference
1. Warriors (65-14) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs
2. Spurs (60-18) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage in first round
3. Rockets (53-25) — clinched playoff berth and home-court advantage in first round
4. Jazz (48-30) — clinched playoff berth
5. Clippers (48-31) — clinched playoff berth
6. Thunder (45-33) — clinched playoff berth
7. Grizzlies (42-37) — clinched playoff berth
8. Trail Blazers (38-40)
9. Nuggets (37-41)
NBA schedule: Remaining games
Cavs: vs. Atlanta, at Atlanta, at Miami, vs. Toronto
Behind a dominant performance by LeBron James, the Cavs blew past the Celtics for a 114-91 victory. Cleveland now has a stranglehold on the No. 1 seed with a virtual two-game lead on the Celtics with the head-to-head tiebreaker. Yeah, the East still goes through that James guy.
Celtics: at Atlanta, at Charlotte, vs. Brooklyn, vs. Milwaukee
Boston still has an outside shot at the one seed, but the path just got a lot more difficult. The Celtics face a Hawks team fighting for a playoff spot on the second game of a back-to-back Thursday night. The loss to the Cavs was a huge blow to any hopes of taking the conference.
Raptors: vs. Miami, at New York, at Cleveland
The Cavs’ win also provides more motivation for No. 3 in the East. With Cleveland in position to stay on top, the Raptors and Wizards will fight for the three seed in order to avoid the Cavs until a potential conference finals matchup. The Raptors lead the Wizards by a half game and own the head-to-head tiebreaker. They also benefit from having a Sunday game against the awful Knicks and a season finale against a possibly resting Cavs squad.
Wizards: at New York, vs. Miami, at Detroit, at Miami
Washington is right on Toronto’s heels, but the Wizards will have to face the currently eighth-seeded Heat twice before the end of the regular season. Miami could be fighting for its playoff life down to the final game, and that won’t make life easy on the Wizards. Still, home-court advantage in the first round is locked up.
Bucks: at Indiana, at Philadelphia, vs. Charlotte, at Boston
Milwaukee has a 99 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to , so no need for Bucks fans to worry. Three of the last four are on the road, though the Sixers game and no back-to-backs should help. The Bucks clinch a playoff berth with a win Thursday.
Hawks: vs. Boston, at Cleveland, vs. Cleveland, vs. Charlotte, at Indiana
The Celtics-Cavs-Cavs slate is not a lot of fun, especially with the first two games back-to-back on Thursday and Friday. However, the Hawks hold a 1.5-game lead over the Bulls, Heat and Pacers. An East playoff bracket without the Hawks would still be surprising at this point.
Bulls: at Philadelphia, at Brooklyn, vs. Orlando, vs. Brooklyn
Chicago has the same record as the Heat and Pacers, but the Bulls hold the tiebreakers on both and have a closing schedule that has to make Jimmy Butler smile. That’s why the Bulls have a 90 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to .
Heat: at Toronto, at Washington, vs. Cleveland, vs. Washington
A big win in Charlotte helped push the Heat back into the playoff picture. That’s the good news. So, here’s the bad news: back-to-back away games against the Raptors and Wizards, followed by the Cavs on Monday and Wizards again on Wednesday. That eighth spot will be tough to keep.
Pacers: vs. Milwaukee, at Orlando, at Philadelphia, vs. Atlanta
gives Indiana a 69 percent chance to make the playoffs, a clear advantage over Miami at 56 percent. Having the lowly Magic and Sixers for two of the last four gives the Pacers a boost, but they’ve also lost six of their last eight games. The opportunity is there, but Paul George and Co. need to take it.
Hornets: vs. Boston, at Milwaukee, at Atlanta
Pistons: at Houston, at Memphis, vs. Washington, at Orlando
Losses by Charlotte and Detroit on Wednesday night were the final nails in the coffins for both teams despite not yet being mathematically eliminated. Early vacation plans will now commence.
Warriors: vs. New Orleans, vs. Utah, vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Oh, nothing to see here. Another 65-plus win season for Golden State and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Still your championship favorite here.
Spurs: at Dallas, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, at Portland, at Utah
San Antonio is locked in at No. 2 and will face the Grizzlies in the first round. The Spurs split the season series 2-2, though Kawhi Leonard was out with a quad injury for one of those losses.
Rockets: vs. Pistons, at Sacramento, at Los Angeles Clippers, vs. Minnesota
Houston will stay at No. 3 and likely face OKC in the first round. Wait, we get James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook already? Sign us up.
Jazz: vs. Minnesota, at Portland, at Golden State, vs. San Antonio
Here’s where it gets slightly more interesting. Utah leads LA by a half game in the current standings, but the Clippers own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Jazz face a back-to-back situation Friday against the Timberwolves and Saturday against the Trail Blazers but may benefit from having the Warriors and Spurs rest in the final two games.
Clippers: at San Antonio, vs. Houston, vs. Sacramento
LA plays the Spurs on Saturday after two full days of rest, then finishes with two home games Monday and Wednesday. If you don’t think home-court advantage would be a huge deal in a Clippers-Jazz series, consider this: both teams are 27-12 at home this year, but the Jazz are 21-18 and the Clippers are 21-19 away from their home arenas.
Thunder: at Phoenix, at Denver, at Minnesota, vs. Denver
OKC hits the road for three games before playing its season finale on a back-to-back against the Nuggets. The Thunder look secure at No. 6, so this is more a matter of watching Westbrook attempt to set the single-season record for triple-doubles (currently tied with Oscar Robertson at 41).
Grizzlies: vs. New York, vs. Detroit, vs. Dallas
This year’s playoff berth marks a seventh straight postseason appearance for Memphis. They’ll close out the regular season with an easy schedule before battling the Spurs.
Trail Blazers: vs. Minnesota, vs. Utah, vs. San Antonio, vs. New Orleans
Nuggets: vs. New Orleans, vs. Oklahoma City, at Dallas, at Oklahoma City
With only four games left for each team, Portland has a 93 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to . The Trail Blazers effectively hold a two-game lead on the Nuggets with the head-to-head tiebreaker. It’s highly unlikely Denver will win the opportunity to get eliminated by the Warriors in the first round. But hey, Nikola Jokic was super fun this season!