A look at the NBA playoff picture, with two days remaining in the regular season and now only one berth left to be decided:
The playoffs start Wednesday.
Officially, that’s not true. But the Denver at Minnesota game on Wednesday night may as well be considered a play-in game: Winner moves on, loser goes home.
Monday started with four spots available out West, and ended with only one still unclaimed. New Orleans, San Antonio and Oklahoma City all won to clinch their playoff berths — the Spurs doing so for the 21st consecutive year, tying Portland for the second-longest run in NBA history and moving one shy of tying Philadelphia’s league record (which started when the 76ers were the Syracuse Nationals).
The funny part about Monday’s triple-clinchings is that nothing changed in the standings. The order of the top eight remains the same, going into the next-to-last day of the regular season.
It won’t stay that way. Get ready for craziness.
Portland and Utah can still get to No. 3. The Blazers, Jazz, Pelicans, Thunder and Spurs are in the mix for No. 4. The Spurs could also fall as far as No. 8. The Thunder, who are in seventh, cannot finish seventh. There’s at least a dozen more scenarios.
Wednesday night will be great fun.
Cleveland won the Central Division and locked Indiana into the No. 5 seed with a win at New York.
Milwaukee is now up to No. 6 in the East, flip-flopping spots with now-No. 7 Miami. The Bucks beat Orlando, while the Heat could get nothing going and got routed in the fourth quarter on the way to losing to the Thunder.
The Bucks wrap up No. 6 with a win at Philadelphia on Wednesday night. But the 76ers will go into the final day with a chance at the No. 3 spot, regardless of whether they win in Atlanta on Tuesday.
— Charlotte at Indiana: No playoff impact, Pacers will be the No. 5 seed.
— Philadelphia at Atlanta: Philadelphia can be No. 3 seed by winning last two, and stretching its winning streak to 16.
— Boston at Washington: A potential first-round matchup if Wizards finish seventh. Washington can also be No. 6 or No. 8.
— Golden State at Utah: Jazz could get to No. 3 seed with a 2-0 finish. Warriors could be first NBA team with 30 road wins in three straight seasons.
— Phoenix at Dallas: No playoff impact, Suns have clinched NBA’s worst record.
— Houston at L.A. Lakers: No playoff impact, Lakers aiming for winning home record.
First-round matchups if the season ended Monday …
East: 1-Toronto vs. 8-Washington, 2-Boston vs. 7-Miami, 3-Philadelphia vs. 6-Milwaukee, 4-Cleveland vs. 5-Indiana.
West: 1-Houston vs. 8-Minnesota, 2-Golden State vs. 7-Oklahoma City, 3-Portland vs. 6-San Antonio, 4-Utah vs. 5-New Orleans.
NOTE OF THE DAY
Neither Denver nor Minnesota has ever missed the playoffs in a 46-win season. One will this year.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We know we can beat anybody when we’re playing our best.” — Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, after the Thunder clinched their spot.