Theto create excitement, make more games meaningful, and curtail tanking. With just three days left in the , the intrigue surrounding the play-in format has drawn more attention than the race for the No. 1 seed, buoyed by the prospect of the a play-in game to make the playoffs. In short, both conferences’ seventh- and eighth-place teams aren’t guaranteed a . The a shot at reaching the playoffs. Here’s how it works and who might end up in the play-in-game format.
After the regular season concludes, the seventh- and eighth-place teams play each other, and the winner earns the No. 7 seed. The loser of thatthe 9-10 tournament winner. The winner of that game becomes the No. 8 seed. To give the teams with a better record during the regular season an advantage, teams 7-8 need to . The play-in games are May 18-21, with the 16-team, best-of-7 playoffs beginning May 22. The picture is more transparent in the East than in the West, though tiebreakers convolute the scenarios.
Boston, Charlotte, Indiana, and Washington are in. The in the East are set, so none of these teams can finish above No. 7. The Celtics secured seventh place in the East because Charlotte lost to the Los Clippers, and the Pacers lost to Milwaukee on Thursday. Even if the Celtics lose out and the Hornets and Pacers win out, and all three teams finish with 35-37 records, the Celtics own the head-to-head tiebreaker against both teams. Celtics’ remaining games: at Minnesota, at New York Knicks
Though Charlotte and Indiana have identical way, playing teams jostling for playoff or play-in positions. Indiana doesn’t have a cakewalk, either. But at the very least, the Hornets and Pacers have locked up a spot in the play-in game. Hornets’ remaining games: at New York Knicks, at Washington Wizards Pacers’ remaining games: vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at Torontoremaining, the Hornets are in eighth place because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Charlotte does not have it easy the rest of the
That final game of the season between Washington and Charlotte could be significant. Washington wants a spot in the play-in game but needs to win a game. They are two games ahead of Chicago, and if the Wizards lost theirand Chicago won its last two, the Bulls would get in based on a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Wizards could also increase if they win their last two and get help with Charlotte and Indiana losses.
Wizards’ remaining games: vs. Cleveland, vs. Charlotte
Bulls’ remaining games: at Brooklyn vs. Milwaukee
In the West, the seventh-place Lakers, still waiting for LeBron James to return, still have a chance to move into the sixth or fifth spot, but they need help. 40-30, they are a game behind 41-29 Dallas and a ½ game behind 41-30 Portland. Both the Blazers and Mavericks own the tiebreaker against the Lakers, so for the Lakers to avoid the play-in game, they would need to win their two remaining games, and either Dallas or Portland would have to lose their remaining games. So, Portland and Dallas could still end up in the play-in game, and the Blazers have the most difficult schedule of the three teams. Portland lost to Phoenix on Thursday. But if it’s the Lakers in the seventh spot, they could face eighth-place in a tantalizing play-in game.
Lakers’ remaining games: at Indiana, at New Orleans
Mavericks’ remaining games: vs. Toronto, at Minnesota
Blazers’ remaining games: vs. Denver
The Warriors don’t have an eighth place in their possession just yet. Golden State is tied with Memphis at 37-33. That position could come down to the season’s final gameon Sunday, with the winner earning the tiebreaker.
Warriors’ remaining games: vs. New Orleans, vs. Memphis
Grizzlies’ remaining games: vs. Sacramento at Golden State
will finish in 10th place because Sacramento lost to Memphis on Thursday, eliminating the Kings from a play-in game possibility. The Spurs can’t catch Golden State or Memphis for eighth or ninth place.