With just a few days left in the regular season, the race for playoff seedings is far from decided.
The Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, and Los Angeles Lakers all picked up wins tonight, meaning the three-way battle to secure a guaranteed spot in the Western Conference playoffs could come down to the final day of the season.
Damian Lillard and the Blazers secured a 125-98 win over the Utah Jazz, moving them to a 41-29 record, good for the fifth seed, while the Dallas Mavericks' 125-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans leaves them in sixth, despite having the same record. The Blazers hold the tiebreaker (2-1) over the Mavs.
Meanwhile, the Lakers (40-30) held on to beat the Houston Rockets 124-122, leaving them in the seventh seed, with each team now having two games to play.
The Blazers can secure at least the sixth seed by winning one of their two remaining games, visiting the Phoenix Suns, before a home game against the Denver Nuggets. two tough matchups to close the season.
For the Dallas Mavericks, they also need just one win from their remaining two games or a Lakers loss to guarantee at least a sixth-place finish. They host the Toronto Raptors before visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves, two teams who have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
For the Lakers, they seem all but destined for the seventh seed. The only way they can avoid the Play-In Tournament is if they win both of their remaining games on the road against both the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans and at least one of the Blazers and Mavericks lose both their games.
The Pelicans' loss tonight officially eliminates them from Play-In contention, while the San Antonio Spurs, who lost to the Brooklyn Nets remain 2.0 games ahead of the Sacramento Kings, who can still mathematically sneak into the 10th seed, with a back-to-back against the Memphis Grizzlies followed by a finale against the Utah Jazz.
Here's how the Play-In picture looks after tonight's games:
|Seed||Western Conference Play-In Picture||W-L||GB|
|5.||Portland Trail Blazers||41-29||9.0|
|7.||Los Angeles Lakers||40-30||10.0|
|8||Golden State Warriors||37-33||13.0|
|10.||San Antonio Spurs||33-36||16.5|
|12.||New Orleans Pelicans (eliminated)||31-39||19.0|
The top six teams will automatically secure their spot in the playoffs, while teams 7-10 will compete in the Play-In Tournament. The seventh and eighth seed will play one game to determine the No.7 seed, with the loser of that game, playing the winner of the Nine-Ten game to determine the No.8 seed.
If the playoffs started today?
1. Utah Jazz vs. No. 8 seed
2. Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 seed
3. L.A. Clippers vs. 6. Dallas Mavericks
4. Denver vs. 5. Portland Trail Blazers
If the Play-In Tournament started today?
7. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8. Golden State Warriors. The winner earns No.7 seed, loser to play the winner of 9-10 game.
9. Memphis Grizzlies vs. 10. San Antonio Spurs. The winner advances to play the loser of 7-8 game, with the loser eliminated
The loser of Lakers/Warriors to play the winner of Grizzlies/Spurs for the No.8 seed, with the loser eliminated.
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