With the NBA season ending this Wednesday, plenty of teams are trying to solidify their playoff positions. Last week we saw some major moves in both conferences. Even with only 2 games left in the season, nothing is set in stone and looks like it won’t be until the last game is played Wednesday night.
Let’s start in the East where the Cavs’ season continues to be as dramatic as possible. They won 2 of 3 games against playoff teams (Toronto and Washington) this week but still dropped to fourth in the East. And that can’t sit well with Lebron. They have two games left (both versus New York) and need to win them both to have a chance at the three spot. Expect them to finish strong though because this is Lebron we are talking about. And a motivated Lebron James is a tough one to beat.
That third spot is currently held by the hottest team in basketball, the Sixers. Winners of 14 in a row (six of which without Joel Embiid) And they were the team to hand the Cavs’ their only loss last week, jumping them in the standings. The game must of felt like two wins considering they built a 30 point lead in the first half. Lost it in the second. Then held on to win.
They’ve moved from fifth to third during the streak and are a full game up on Cleveland with two games to play. They are playing great ball with only a road game in Atlanta before finishing with Milwaukee at home. And those should be easy plays. They have to know the Cavs’ are still after their spot and should finish strong.
In the West, only the top two playoff spots have been decided (Houston and Golden State). After that you have seven teams all within 3 games of each other for 6 spots. Utah is playing fantastic and can still catch a Damion Lillard-less Portland team for the 3rd spot. Or they could drop to the eighth seed. And the four through eight spots are even weirder. New Orleans, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are all tied with two to play.
Minnesota only a game behind in eighth. However, the T’Wolves are only a tie breaker ahead of Denver, the winners of five straight. Everybody got that? These teams are matching up head to head next week so we should see some favorable lines when two teams with something to play for match up.
The Thunder may be the most interesting team here. They rebounded from a tough loss to Golden State on Tuesday by winning at Houston on Saturday. Their final two games find them at Miami and then back home for Memphis. Beating Houston at home should set up any team for a run and with two winnable games remaining expect them too.
Expect Denver to make some noise in the standings as well. But be careful. Last week they beat Indiana, Minnesota, and the Clippers to continue their hot streak. However, they only covered versus LA. And the wins versus Indiana and Minnesota were both at home. They are winning close games but giving any more than 4 points is a bad idea.
New Orleans also had a hot week and have won 3 in a row but more importantly they covered every game. Twice as a favorite versus tankers Memphis and Phoenix and once as a dog against Golden State. And that was in Oakland. Which they won by six. That is a strong week right there so look for them to continue that trend into the playoffs. Their final game is against San Antonio at home. There should be plenty riding on that game and not just a better matchup in the playoffs. But, in fact, the playoffs all together.
San Antonio had a stumble last week. They were able to beat Portland Saturday but that was after two bad losses (both as favorites) to both L.A. teams. Gregg Popovich doesn’t usually miss the playoffs but this has not been the usual Spurs’ year. Their last two opponents (Sacramento and New Orleans) should have the lines in their favor even if San Antonio can pull out two victories.
The last days of the season rarely produce such drama for playoff position. If last week is any indication, next week should provide us with some good games, good lines, and favorable outcomes.