Latest playoff picture

April, 13, 2010
Hollinger By John Hollinger
In an upset, we may know all the West pairings before much has been settled in the East. The Thunder’s 103-95 loss to Portland not only sets the Lakers-Thunder matchup as the 1 vs. 8 pairing in the West, it also takes much of the starch out of Wednesday’s Dallas-San Antonio game. The Spurs have basically nothing to play for -- if they lose they’re No. 7, and if they win they’re probably still No. 7 since Portland only needs to beat Golden State at home in the season finale on Wednesday to get the No. 6 seed.

Of course, Dallas might not have much motivation either, as a Denver win in Phoenix or a Utah loss to Golden State on Tuesday would lock Dallas into the No. 2 seed. Given all those considerations and Gregg Popovich’s penchant for resting his veterans whenever humanly possible, we can move forward assuming No. 2 Dallas will play No. 7 San Antonio in the first round and that the Blazers will be the No. 6 seed.

That leaves only spots Nos. 3, 4 and 5 to settle, and those could be decided by closing time Tuesday because if Denver beats Phoenix to wrap up the No. 3 slot. If so, that would leave only Phoenix and Utah to fight it out on the final day for seeds Nos. 4 and 5 (which would be the case regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s Jazz-Warriors game.)

Otherwise, Phoenix will be No. 3 if it beats Denver Tuesday and Utah Wednesday. Utah will be No. 3 if it wins its final two games and Denver loses to Phoenix. If Utah loses to Golden State, then Denver clinches the division and can be seeded no worse than fourth … but if Denver loses and Utah beats Golden State then the Nuggets can’t be a top-three seed and would need Phoenix to beat Utah to have home-court advantage.

In the East, if Boston loses to Chicago on Tuesday it will lock in the Hawks as the No. 3 seed and the Celtics at No. 4. But the other pairings will all go down to the last day of the season. Miami clinches No. 5 with a win or a Milwaukee loss; Atlanta clinches No. 3 with a win or a Boston loss; and Chicago clinches No. 8 with a combo of two wins and a Toronto loss. So the likely pairings are Cavs-Bulls, Magic-Bobcats, Hawks-Bucks and Celtics-Heat, but the Magic-Bobcats matchup is the only one set in stone.



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