With a total of 72 regular-season games to be played this season, most teams in the NBA have around 10 or 11 matches remaining in the regular season. With six places available direct into the playoffs, and four more available for the play-in tournament, there’s still plenty to play for most teams.
At the moment, four teams have confirmed their place in the playoffs, two from each conference. In the Eastern Conference the Brooklyn Nets (42-20) and the Philadelphia 76ers (41-21) have both clinched their spots.
Meanwhile in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz (45-17) and Phoenix Suns (44-18) have clinched their spots already with another couple of teams looking likely to follow them into the playoffs over the next couple of games.
Just two teams are out of contention for the playoffs at this stage, both from the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets (15-47) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (19-44).
Who Will Clinch A Playoff Berth Soon?
There are a number of teams that are just a couple of wins away from clinching a playoff spot and the closest of these is the Los Angeles Clippers who would have clinched already had they not lost their last two games. They need just one more win to confirm a playoff spot, while the Denver Nuggets, also in the Western Conference need just three more wins to do likewise.
In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks also need three more wins to confirm their participation in the playoffs, but beyond that things are very close in the division with just 7 games separating the fourth-placed Knicks to the 10th placed Wizards.
Eastern Conference Playoffs & Play In Battles
With the Nets and 76ers already confirmed and the Bucks likely to join them shortly, there is a huge
Battle going to rage over the last 10 games of the season or so for a place in the playoffs or play in tournament.
In terms of the playoffs, all the teams from the Wizards in 10th upwards will be hoping that they can push on to claim a spot in the top six. At the moment, it looks like it will be three from the four teams the Knicks, Hawks, Celtics and Heat to claim a place in the top six, but should the Hornets, Pacers or Wizards put together a strong run, they could push themselves into contention.
The latter three teams are more likely to qualify for the Play In tournament and the Bulls and Raptors are not ruled out of that just yet as they are just two wins away from 10th position in the Conference. It does look pretty safe to rule the Cavaliers, Magic and Pistons out of contention for any involvement in the postseason.
My Prediction – Eastern Conference Playoffs – 1. Nets, 2. 76ers, 3. Bucks, 4. Knicks, 5 Hawks, 6. Heat. Play In – 7. Celtics, 8. Pacers, 9. Wizards, 10. Hornets
Western Conference Playoffs & Play In Battles
The Jazz and Suns are already confirmed in the playoffs and the Clippers are just one game away from joining them, and the Nuggets are just three wins away (and on a three-game-winning run). I think those four teams looked locked into four of those six playoff spots in the West.
Saturday’s game between the Jazz and Suns could go a long way towards deciding who comes out on top of this division and clinches home court advantage.
The long-time favorites to win this conference the Lakers are in fifth, but their form at the moment does give cause for concern. The Mavericks and Trail Blazers are just a couple of wins behind the Lakers at the moment and have been in better form of late. That said, I would still expect the Lakers to clinch a playoff spot with one of the other two teams making up that top six.
The race for the play in is more defined in the Western Conference with the 10th place Warriors four games ahead of the Pelicans in 11th and over a 10 game run, I can’t see the Pelicans winning four more games than the Warriors, Grizzlies or Spurs to push themselves into contention.
For me, the Pelicans, Kings and Thunder are likely out of contention for post-season involvement along with the Timberwolves and Rockets.
My Prediction – Western Conference Playoffs – 1. Jazz, 2. Suns, 3. Clippers, 4. Nuggets, 5. Lakers, 6. Mavericks. Play In – 7. Trail Blazers, 8. Spurs, 9. Warriors, 10. Grizzlies