The regular season in the NBA is now down to its final three games and the Playoff and Play In pictures are now starting to take shape.
However, there are still plenty of issues to be resolved, teams that could still claim a Playoff or Play In berth, with a number of teams hovering between the crucial sixth and seventh positions in the table, which will determine who goes into which.
How Does The Play In Work?
The Play In, a new addition to the NBA for this season, will see the teams ranked 7th to 10th in
the Conference Standings play each other to decide the 7th and 8th seeds in the playoffs. The seventh ranked team will take on the eighth ranked team for the seventh seed position in the Playoffs.
The 9th and 10th ranked teams then play off with the loser eliminated. The winner of that game then takes on the loser of the game between the 7th & 8th seeds to determine the 8th seed spot in the Playoffs.
The Play In takes place from the 18th to 21st May, finishing one day before the Playoffs are scheduled to start on 22nd May.
The new format, which replaces the simpler top eight teams in each Conference qualifying for the playoffs has already drawn criticism from LeBron James after the Lakers slipped into seventh place in the Western Conference.
What’s The Playoff Situation As We Stand?
With 69 of the 72 regular season games played, four teams from each Conference have
clinched a playoff spot, although their final seedings are not yet confirmed.
In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks were joined in the playoffs last night by the Miami Heat after they completed their sweep of the Celtics in a two-game series with a 129-121 victory.
It looks. Highly likely that the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks will claim the final two playoff spot as they hold a three-game lead over the Celtics and require just one more win to confirm themselves in that top group of six teams.
The Play In situation is also well defined with it likely to see the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards claiming the 7th to 10th seed spots in this division.
The Utah Jazz lead the way in the Western Conference with the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets also confirmed in the playoffs. However, the situation in the West is much more fluid than in the East with three games left to play.
For the final two automatic playoff sports four teams could still clinch one of them. The Trail Blazers and Mavericks hold those spots now, a game ahead of the Lakers who occupy the 7th spot in the table. The Warriors need to win out and hope the teams above them hit a losing streak to have any chance of a top six spot.
Those four teams could also be involved in the Play In in the West along with the Grizzlies, who have confirmed at least a Play In spot, the Spurs and it is also possible the Pelicans and Kings could nab a Play In spot if one of the teams above them falters and they win out in their remaining games.
Key Remaining Games
There are many games remaining in the season that have Playoff and/or seeding implications and those games start tonight with the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards clashing, followed an hour later by the Brooklyn Nets taking on the San Antonio Spurs, with rumors that James Harden could make a timely return for the Nets.
#Nets star James Harden regarding his hamstring injury progress:
-He feels “really good” and is working on conditioning, changing speed, and changing direction.
— Justin Persicketti (@j_persicketti) May 6, 2021
There’s also a massive game in the West tonight as the Jazz face the Trail Blazers, while later on the Lakers will hope to make it three wins in a row as they take on the bottom of the table Houston Rockets.
It promises to be a dramatic and explosive few days ahead in the NBA and it is one that could well shape the post-season.