NBA rankings, effects of playing in the last weekend of the regular season

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after the 76ers beat the Pacers 133-120 on Saturday.

The final weekend of the NBA regular season is here, and all we know is 48 hours of chaos lie ahead.

Thanks to the mixed sowing picture at both conferences, only a handful of seeds were identified. Here’s a quick rundown of it all, starting with the busy lead of the Eastern District Rankings.

more: NBA standings | Weekend schedule | How does play work?


Who will finish 2-3-4 in the East?

The Miami Heat snatched the top seed in the Eastern playoffs Thursday night. However, the three teams behind them — the Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers — could still finish in any order.

After beating the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, the Bucks control their fate. Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers – more of them below – or a loss by the Celtics in Memphis against the Grizzlies would ensure Milwaukee a second seed.

However, a loss to Cleveland would open the door for the Celtics to claim second place with a win over Memphis. This combination would see Boston take the number two spot on the basis of Fifth Tie-breaker: He has a better record than Milwaukee against fellow Eastern teams.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, needs a win on Sunday over Detroit and needs Boston to lose to finish third. The 76ers couldn’t finish higher than third, losing a head-to-head tiebreaker with Milwaukee (which won the season series) and could now only take wins. Philadelphia also lost the tiebreak to Boston, (which has a better division record).

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The Toronto Raptors clinched the fifth seed by defeating the Houston Rockets on Friday night, which means the Chicago Bulls will have the sixth seed. The need to be fully vaccinated to play in Toronto may affect the 76ers. (Matisse Thibaultwho has not commented publicly on whether he has been vaccinated against COVID-19 – was listed as “not eligible to play” in Thursday’s loss there.)


oriental play madness

Playing the East race is just as exciting as the battle between the top teams in the conference – especially considering the star-studded Brooklyn Nets find themselves in it. After Brooklyn’s victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the Nets take the driver’s seat in seventh, which they will seal on Sunday with a win over Indiana. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers will finish eighth if they beat the Bucks on Sunday at home.

If either team loses, it opens the door for Atlanta or Charlotte for an eighth place finish. Atlanta flies to Houston on Sunday, while Charlotte hosts the Washington Wizards.

Here’s where things get wild:

  • Brooklyn has a head-to-head tiebreak over Atlanta, Charlotte has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Brooklyn and Atlanta has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Charlotte, all thanks to a better division record. Cleveland loses the tiebreak against the other three teams.

  • If Brooklyn and Cleveland lose, and Atlanta and Charlotte win—leading to a four-way tie—Brooklyn would be seventh, Atlanta eighth, Charlotte ninth and Cleveland 10th.

  • If Brooklyn wins, Cleveland loses, and Atlanta and Charlotte both win and create a three-way tie for eighth, it would be the same ranking.

  • If Cleveland wins, Brooklyn loses, and Atlanta and Charlotte each win, it will be Cleveland 7th, Brooklyn 8th, Atlanta 9th, Charlotte 10th.


The struggle to sow the West

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At the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors have one game over the Dallas Mavericks to finish third with two games remaining. As Dallas holds the tiebreaker over the Warriors thanks to its season series win, Golden State should stay ahead of Dallas to stay in third place.

Warriors can ensure this by winning the last two matches. Otherwise, Golden State would need to lose Dallas on Sunday to San Antonio.

It’s an equally tight battle for fifth and sixth place, as the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets tied with a record 48-33 heading into the final day of the season. With Utah sweeping the season series, the Jazz will be fifth seeded if they beat Portland on Sunday, or if Denver loses to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the meantime, the Nuggets will need to lose to Utah and beat the Lakers to finish fifth.

The New Orleans Pelicans are currently ninth and need only one win in their last two games – or the San Antonio Spurs losing once in their last two games – in order to secure their ninth place and host the first game.

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