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NBA Playoff scenarios: So who plays who now?

Apr 13, 2010, 8:57 AM EDT

Twenty-four hours ago the NBA playoff picture was about as clear as Mr. Magoo sees the world.

Today, it’s come into focus a little bit around the edges, but it’s still pretty dang hazy. Here’s what we know so far.

Eastern Conference

In the East, Cleveland has had the number one seed locked up for a while, and they will play either Chicago or Toronto. The Raptors won last night, putting pressure on the Bulls to beat the Celtics tonight to keep their current half-game hold on the eight spot. Then on Wednesday the Bulls face the Bobcats while the Raptors play the Knicks. If the Bulls and Raptors tie, Toronto wins the tiebreaker.

The one matchup that is now set in the East is the one we expected: Orlando the two seed will face Charlotte the seven seed. That is set.

Atlanta has the upper hand in becoming the three seed, which would force Boston into the four slot. The Hawks magic number is one. If Atlanta wins Wednesday night against Cleveland (which will rest a lot of players that game) or if the Celtics lose to the Bulls tonight (Tuesday) or the Bucks on Wednesday, the Hawks get the three seed. Boston can fall no lower than the four seed.

Miami has a magic number of one and is pretty much a lock to be the five seed (and likely see the Celtics in the first round), which will force Milwaukee into the six slot. This will be decided Wednesday night. Miami needs to beat the lowly New Jersey Nets, or Milwaukee would need to fall to Boston. If neither happens, the Bucks can be the five seed still.

Western Conference

Out West, the Lakers are the one seed and they will face the eighth seed Thunder in the first round. This was set after the Thunder lost to the Trail Blazers Monday night.

Also, the Mavericks are almost a lock two seed. Almost. They lock it up with a win Wednesday against the Spurs, or if the Jazz lose one game (either to Golden State tonight or Phoenix Wednesday) or if the Nuggets beat the Suns tonight (in a game that decides a lot). If the Mavericks beat the Spurs on Wednesday night it would lock in a Mavericks/Spurs first-round showdown, regardless of what happens anywhere else.

The Nuggets can lock up the three seed if they can win tonight against Phoenix. If not, they would need the Jazz to lose to the Warriors tonight (not likely) then beat the Suns on Wednesday night. However, if Phoenix beats Denver tonight and the Jazz win both their remaining games, the Nuggets can fall all the way to the five slot.

Phoenix can lock up the three seed if they can win out, but that will not be easy — Denver tonight then Utah on Wednesday. (That two-win Suns scenario means the Jazz and Nuggets in the first round as the four and five seeds). If Denver beats the Suns tonight, it locks in a Suns vs. Jazz first round matchup.

The Jazz could theoretically get the two seed still, but a small miracle of things needs to happen. First, they nee to win out (the Warriors tonight and Suns tomorrow) and the Suns would beat Denver tonight and the Jazz lose to the Warriors tonight and the Mavericks lose to the Spurs Wednesday. That’s not going to happen.

The Jazz as the three seed is a little more likely. They just need to win out (Warriors and Suns) and have the Nuggets beat the Suns tonight (this assumes Dallas beats San Antonio Wednesday). If the Jazz beat the Suns and the Warriors, they will be no lower than the four seed. But if they lose to the Suns, the Jazz could be the fifth seed as they lose the tiebreaker with the Suns, and would have to start on the road.

Portland will most likely be the six seed and the Spurs the seven seed. All Portland needs is to beat the Warriors Wednesday, or have the Mavericks beat the Spurs Wednesday. However, if the Warriors and Spurs win those games, the Spurs are the six seed.

There, isn’t that all perfectly clear now?

  1. toner - Apr 13, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    “The Jazz could theoretically get the two seed still, but a small miracle of things needs to happen. First, they need to **win out** (the Warriors tonight and Suns tomorrow) and the Suns would beat Denver tonight and the **Jazz lose to the Warriors** tonight and the Mavericks lose to the Spurs Wednesday. That’s not going to happen.”
    You’re right, it’s not. The Jazz need to win out AND lose to the Warriors?

  2. Darrell - Apr 13, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    The NBA should award the playoff berths to the best teams. That means a team with a losing record should be replaced with a team with a winning record even if they’re in another division. If there aren’t enough teams with winning records to fill the brackets, then give the team with the best record a bye. I cannot see how a team that has a losing record deserves a playoff berth.

  3. tommyk - Apr 13, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    That’s right, i believe playoff birth should go 1st to the division winner and then next to team with winning records and they should put both conferences in a brackett, meaning east and west together and best team plays at the end, west vs west game in final , imganine that

  4. mike - Apr 13, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    Hey I know the playoff picture is confusing but this guy who wrote this made it even more confusing. I don’t think he proof reads his work. First he says the Nuggets could lock up the 3 seed if they beat the suns tonight. Then he later says the Jazz could be #3 if they win out and have again the Nuggets beat the Suns. He then says that the jazz could still get the #2 by winning out against warriors and suns but would also have to lose to the warriors. Is this guy smoking crack or something?

  5. Jeff - Apr 13, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    “I cannot see how a team that has a losing record deserves a playoff berth.”
    There isn’t a single team in playoff contention with a losing record…

  6. Randall - Apr 13, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    “There isn’t a single team in playoff contention with a losing record…”
    You’re right, there’s two. And one can still get in w/ its losing record.
    Nice try though. Thanks for playing!

  7. me - Apr 13, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    I dont know if i have a losing record or not,but i wonder if i could be in play-off contention?

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