With two days left in the NBA season, nearly all is settled. Nearly. Neeearly.
Fourteen teams have guaranteed a playoff spot, with the eighth seed in both conferences coming down to the final day. The Oklahoma City Thunder & New Orleans Pelicans both still have a shot in the Western Conference, and with the Nets hoping to avoid giving up a lottery pick to the Atlanta Hawks, they’d like to beat out the Indiana Pacers & Miami Heat in the East.
Here’s how the race shakes up for those three teams, who hope to secure the honor of taking on those Hawks in the first round.
The Nets make the playoffs if:
They beat the Magic Wednesday, and the Pacers split their last two games OR lose both games. If the Pacers split, they would tie the Nets with a 38-44 record, and the Nets own the tiebreaker over the Pacers. If the Pacers lose both games, they fall one game behind the Nets.
They lose to the Magic Wednesday, the Pacers lose their final two games, and the Heat lose their final game. The Heat own the tiebreaker over the Nets, but if they fall to the 76ers Wednesday, they’ll finish one game back.
The Pacers make the playoffs if:
They beat the Wizards & Grizzlies. That would give them a final record of 39-43, while the Nets can only finish 38-44 at best, and the Heat can’t do better than 37-45. This is true no matter what happens with the Nets or Heat. They control their destiny: they win, they’re in.
They split their final two games and the Nets lose. That would put the Nets one game out at 37-45, while the Pacers would be 38-44.
The Heat make the playoffs if:
The Nets & Pacers both lose and the Heat win Wednesday. That means all three teams would finish 37-45, and the Heat own the three-team tiebreaker. The Heat face the 76ers, so a win is likely. But they’re relying on a fair bit of luck: If the Pacers or Nets win any of their final combined three games, the Heat will be eliminated.