East top 8 unchanged, Wolves fall to No. 8 in West
A look at where things stand in the NBA playoff picture, with six days remaining in the regular season:
Cleveland rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Washington, which might prove fortunate for both teams. It allowed the Cavaliers to stay No. 3 in the East, and kept Washington in the No. 7 spot — which they might prefer.
With Kyrie Irving’s season over, the Boston Celtics don’t look as scary as they once did. And since the Celtics are just about locked into the No. 2 seed, the No. 7 seed might actually look attractive to teams. Milwaukee could have moved into No. 7 on Thursday, but it lost to Brooklyn.
Utah’s easy win over the Los Angeles Clippers put the Jazz on the brink of clinching. Minnesota hurt its cause with a loss to Denver and dropped to No. 8 in the Western Conference.
It’s still seven teams alive in the race for the final five spots out West.
— Indiana at Toronto: Raptors can set a franchise record for wins in a season (57) and clinch the No. 1 seed in the East. The Pacers almost certainly need a win to have a realistic chance of opening the playoffs at home.
— Cleveland at Philadelphia: Winner will be No. 3 in the East when the night ends, loser will be No. 4.
— Atlanta at Washington: The Wizards will try to end a three-game losing streak, but John Wall won’t play.
— Chicago at Boston: Celtics’ first game since the Irving-is-done news came out.
— Miami at New York: Win keeps Heat in the driver’s seat for No. 6 seed and, possibly, a first-round matchup against LeBron James.
— New Orleans at Phoenix: Obviously, not a game the Pelicans can waste, not against a team with the NBA’s worst record.
— Minnesota at LA Lakers: The Wolves must win Friday to remain in the top eight out West.
— Dallas-Detroit, Charlotte-Orlando and Sacramento-Memphis have no playoff implications.
First-round matchups if the season ended Thursday ...
East: 1-Toronto vs. 8-Milwaukee, 2-Boston vs. 7-Washington, 3-Cleveland vs. 6-Miami, 4-Philadelphia vs. 5-Indiana.
West: 1-Houston vs. 8-Minnesota, 2-Golden State vs. 7-New Orleans, 3-Portland vs. 6-Oklahoma City, 4-Utah vs. 5-San Antonio.
NOTE OF THE DAY
This will be the first season since 2000-01 that two teams in the same conference with records above .500 miss the playoffs. It happened to Houston (45-37) and Seattle (44-38) that season, and will happen to two other Western Conference clubs this season.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“In general, it’s hard to win an NBA game if you don’t put forth an effort — at all.” — Warriors coach Steve Kerr, after Golden State lost by 20 in Indiana.