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NBA standings, play-in implications of the last weekend of the regular season


The final weekend of the NBA regular season has arrived, and all we know is that 48 hours of mayhem await us.

Thanks to a jumbled ranking picture in both conferences, only a handful of seeds are decided. Here’s a quick rundown of it all, starting with the crowded top of the Eastern Conference standings.

MORE: NBA Rankings | Weekend Schedule | How play-in works


Who will finish 2-3-4 in the East?

The Miami Heat clinched the Eastern playoff seed Thursday night. However, the three teams behind them – the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers – can still finish in just about any order.

After beating the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, the Bucks are masters of their own destiny. A Sunday win over the Cleveland Cavaliers — more on them below — or a Celtics loss in Memphis to the Grizzlies would guarantee Milwaukee gets the second seed.

A loss to Cleveland, however, would open the door for the Celtics to secure No. 2 with a win over Memphis. This combination would see Boston earn the second seed based on the fifth tiebreaker: having a better record than Milwaukee against other Eastern playoff teams.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, must win its two remaining games — against Indiana on Saturday and Detroit on Sunday — and Milwaukee or Boston to lose one of its remaining games to finish higher than fourth.

The 76ers can’t finish higher than third, however, as they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Milwaukee (who won the season series) and can now only match them in wins. Philadelphia also loses the tiebreaker to Boston (which has a better division record).

The Toronto Raptors clinched the fifth seed with a victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night, which means the Chicago Bulls will have the sixth seed. The need to be fully vaccinated to play in Toronto could impact the 76ers. (Matisse Thybulle, who hasn’t commented publicly on whether he’s vaccinated against COVID-19 – was listed as “ineligible to play” in Thursday’s loss there.)


Eastern play-in madness

The race to the Eastern play-in tournament has as much excitement as the battle between the best teams in the conference – especially as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets end up there. After Brooklyn’s victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the Nets are in the driver’s seat for seventh place, which they will clinch with a victory Sunday over Indiana. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, will be eighth if they beat the Bucks on Sunday at home.

If either team loses, it will open the door for Atlanta or Charlotte to secure eighth place. Atlanta travels to Houston on Sunday, while Charlotte hosts the Washington Wizards.

Here’s where things get crazy:

  • Brooklyn owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta, Charlotte owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Brooklyn, and Atlanta has the tiebreaker over Charlotte, all thanks to a better record of division. Cleveland loses the tiebreaker against the other three teams.

  • If Brooklyn and Cleveland both lose, and Atlanta and Charlotte both win — tying it at four — it will be Brooklyn seventh, Atlanta eighth, Charlotte ninth and Cleveland 10th.

  • If Brooklyn wins, Cleveland loses, and Atlanta and Charlotte both win, tying a three-way tie for eighth place, it will be the same order.

  • If Cleveland wins, Brooklyn loses, and Atlanta and Charlotte win, it will be Cleveland seventh, Brooklyn eighth, Atlanta ninth, and Charlotte 10th.


The struggle for the seeding of the West

In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors are one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for third place with two games remaining. With Dallas holding the tiebreaker over the Warriors with their all-season series win, Golden State will have to stay ahead of Dallas to stay third.

The Warriors can make sure of that by winning their last two games. Otherwise, Golden State will need Dallas to lose to San Antonio on Sunday.

It’s an equally close battle for fifth and sixth, with the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets tied with corresponding records of 48-33 heading into the final day of the season. With Utah having swept the season series, however, the Jazz will be the fifth seed if they beat Portland on Sunday or if Denver loses to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, would need both a loss at Utah and a win over the Lakers to finish fifth.

The New Orleans Pelicans are currently ninth and only need a win in their last two games – or a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their last two games – to secure a ninth place finish. and to host the first qualifying match.

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