The NBA regular season ends next Sunday, and out of the 12 teams (top six in both conferences) that earn guaranteed playoff spots, eight have secured berths. The top five seeds in the Eastern Conference are set in stone. The Brooklyn Nets’ magic number of landing the sixth seed is two, and control their destiny in achieving that. The Play-In Race is down to the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls.
In the seventh seed, Miami has a two-game lead on both the Hawks and Raptors, tied with matching 39-39 records. The 10th-seeded Bulls are a game back of both of them. Yet, with the Raptors ending their season with games against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, they can very easily fall to the tenth seed and have a more challenging road to get into the playoffs.
What can be said about the wild wild West? After all the jokes and trolling, the Los Angeles Lakers are on a three-game winning streak, and are a half-game from leapfrogging from the seventh seed to the fifth due to the Los Angeles Clippers’ struggles and the sixth-seeded Golden State Warriors’ debilitating allergy to road victories (9-30). The eighth seed New Orleans Pelicans are surging, winners of seven of their last eight, and can make the same leap. And the snickers you’re hearing are coming from Nets and New York Knicks fans, directed toward Dallas, where the Mavericks are losers of seven of their last eight (4-9 with Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic together), and might not even make the play-in.
A lot of shifting and rejiggering will take place this week until things come to form. The same can be said for the teams at the top of the food chain, as power shifts have occurred in the season’s last days.