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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
NBA playoff scenario: Untangling the season's final night


Tuesday night's play made the playoff picture slightly less foggy.

But there are still plenty of moving pieces -- too many to track without a crib sheet.

Which, thankfully, ESPN statistics and information researcher Peter D. Newmann has created. I can't imagine the work that went into this. But here it is:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Cavaliers Locked in as the No. 1 seed

2. Magic Locked in as the No. 2 seed

3. Hawks Locked in as the No. 3 seed

4. Celtics Locked in as the No. 4 seed

5. Heat Clinch #5 seed with win OR MIL loss

Clinch #6 seed with loss AND MIL win

6. Bucks Clinch #5 seed with win AND MIA loss

Clinch #6 seed with loss OR MIA win

7. Bobcats Locked in as the No. 7 seed

8. Bulls Clinch #8 seed with win OR TOR loss

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9. Raptors Clinch #8 seed with win AND CHI loss

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Lakers Locked in as the No. 1 seed

2. Mavericks Clinch #2 seed with win OR UTAH loss

Clinch #3 seed with loss AND UTAH win

3. Jazz Clinch #2 seed with win AND DAL loss

Clinch #3 seed with win AND DAL win

Clinch #5 seed with loss

4. Suns Clinch #3 seed with win

Clinch #4 seed with loss

5. Nuggets Clinch #4 seed with UTAH loss

Clinch #5 seed with PHX loss

6. Blazers Clinch #6 seed with win OR SA loss

Clinch #7 seed with loss AND SA win

7. Spurs Clinch #6 seed with win AND POR loss

Clinch #7 seed with loss OR POR win

8. Thunder Locked in as the No. 8 seed

One note: I'm sure some of you will have the same initial reaction I did: How can all these things be true? For instance, at first glance it appears that the Mavericks, Jazz and Suns all have their own different ways to clinch the third seed. How could that be? What if two of those things happen? Here's how that could be: Phoenix is playing at Utah tonight. Every scenario where a team clinches the West's third spot depends on that game. So, a Utah win also informs us of a Phoenix loss, for instance, which can complete the picture for Dallas.

Also easy to divine from this list: Tonight's games with playoff implications:
The Bulls and Raptors are fighting for their lives, so those games are huge, but to me that last one has the biggest implications -- two very good teams vying to sort out some of the West's best seeds. Also worth noting: Those first five games in the list all start at the same time, at 8 p.m. ET. It's like the NCAA tournament: No human can keep tabs on all those games at once! Could be a good night for the Daily Dime Live.

UPDATE: John Hollinger (Insider) breaks it down amazingly, including mapping out the most likely outcomes.