Latest playoff picture

April, 13, 2010
4/13/10
9:40
AM ET
Hollinger By John Hollinger
ESPN.com
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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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