NBA playoff picture, standings, magic numbers: Lakers-Clippers, Warriors-Blazers currently on collision course

If the postseason began today, we’d get Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard in the 7-8 play-in game, and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The Lakers got a huge win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday to jump the Dallas Mavericks into the No. 5 seed. The Golden State Warriors jumped the Memphis Grizzlies into the No. 8 seed by beating the New Orleans Pelicans

A quick reminder on the NBA‘s new play-in format: The top six seeds in each conference are in, with the final two seeds up for grabs via the new play-in tournament. In each conference, No. 7 will play No. 8 with the winner getting the No. 7 seed. The loser will then play the winner of 9 vs. 10 for the No. 8 seed.

Below is what the playoff picture looks like entering play on Tuesday, May 4. Teams are listed in order of current seed along with the SportsLine projected finishing seed and different magic number scenarios. A “playoff spot” means a top-six seed. This post will continue to update for the remainder of the season as we keep track of these races down to the wire. 

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times to produce the most unbiased and precise projections possible.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

The Jazz pulled back ahead of Phoenix for the No. 1 overall seed with a win over San Antonio on Monday. Utah is still tied with Phoenix in the loss column, however, and it’s the Suns who own the tiebreaker. 

  • Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 3
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 22nd
  • Projected seed: No. 1

2. Phoenix Suns

The Suns have clinched a top-four seed, and as mentioned above, they control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed. Our SportsLine projections have Phoenix sticking in the No. 2 spot. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 8
  • Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 15th
  • Projected seed: No. 2

3. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets fell to the Lakers Monday night. They are tied with the No. 4 Clippers in the loss column but own the tiebreaker. Technically, a top-two seed is still in play, but realistically the Nuggets are probably going to end up either No. 3 or 4. Denver has clinched a playoff spot. 

  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 12th
  • Projected seed: No. 4

4. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have clinched a playoff spot and are tied with the No. 3 Nuggets, who own the tiebreaker. A top-four seed isn’t mathematically sealed, but the Clippers lead the No. 5 Lakers by six in the loss column with seven games to play. 

  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 27th
  • Projected seed: No. 3

5. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers got a big win over Denver on Monday night to leap Dallas into the No. 5 spot via win percentage. But the two teams remain tied in the loss column and it’s the Mavericks who own the tiebreaker. The Lakers have a one-loss lead over the No. 7 Blazers, whom they play Friday night with the season series tied 1-1. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 11th
  • Projected seed: No. 5

6. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are tied in the loss column with the Lakers and they own the tiebreaker, but for now the Lakers have played one more game (a win) and thus technically lead Dallas via win percentage. The Mavericks still control their own destiny for the No. 5 seed, but they also lead the No. 7 Blazers by just one in the loss column. The Blazers also own the tiebreaker. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 1
  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 7
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 26th
  • Projected seed: No. 6

(Current play-in teams)

The Blazers missed a chance to jump Dallas on Monday night by losing to the Hawks. Portland remains in the No. 7 seed, down one in the loss column to the No. 6 Mavericks and No. 5 Lakers. The Blazers own the tiebreaker over Dallas, while their season series with the Lakers is tied 1-1 with one matchup remaining on Friday. If the playoffs were to start today, the Blazers would face Steph Curry and the Warriors in the first play-in game. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 7th
  • Projected seed: No. 7

8. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors took a big step toward sealing a spot in the play-in tournament on Monday with a 123-108 victory over the Pelicans. It puts four losses between Golden State, which has moved up to No. 8, and No. 11 New Orleans. Meanwhile, Golden State is tied in the loss column with No. 9 Memphis with one matchup remaining on the final day of the season. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 2
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 17th
  • Projected seed: No. 8

9. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are tied with the No. 8 Warriors in the loss column with the season series tied 1-1 and one final matchup remaining on the last day of the season. Memphis has a one-loss lead over San Antonio, but with the tiebreaker already secured, that lead is effectively two. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 4
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 29th
  • Projected seed: No. 8

San Antonio has lost four straight, a run that includes blowing a 32-point lead to Boston and a Ben Simmons buzzer-beater tip-in. They are now one loss back of the No. 9 Grizzlies, who own the tiebreaker, making that gap effectively two games. The Spurs have a three-game lead over the No. 11 Pelicans. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in series: 6
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 1st
  • Projected seed: No. 10

(Clinging to play-in life)

  • 11. New Orleans Pelicans — Three losses back of No. 10 San Antonio (Spurs have the tiebreaker) and No. 9 Memphis (Pelicans own tiebreaker with one matchup remaining). 
The Knicks clinched their first winning season since 2013, and could finish as a top-4 seed as well.
Getty Images

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(Current playoff teams)

The Sixers have a one-game lead over the Nets for the No. 1 seed. Philly also has the tiebreaker over Brooklyn, meaning that lead is effectively two games. 

  • Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 6
  • Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 30th
  • Projected seed: No. 1

2. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets lost to Milwaukee on Sunday to fall to the No. 2 seed, one loss back of No. 1 Philly, which, as mentioned above, also owns the tiebreaker. The Nets lead the No. 3 Bucks by two in the loss column with one matchup remaining Tuesday night. Whoever wins that game will secure the tiebreaker for the season. 

  • Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 5
  • Magic number to clinch top-three seed: 1
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 18th
  • Projected seed: No. 2

3. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks hold a four-loss lead over the No. 4 Knicks with eight to play, so the No. 3 seed is pretty secure even though the Knicks own the tiebreaker. The Bucks are just two games back of No. 2 Brooklyn with one more matchup remaining on Tuesday. That game will also decide the tiebreaker between Milwaukee and Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the Bucks trail No. 1 Philly by three losses, but they do own the tiebreaker over the Sixers via a 3-0 head-to-head advantage. The Bucks can clinch a top-six seed on Tuesday with either a victory over Brooklyn or a Heat loss. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 3
  • Magic number to clinch top-three seed: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 24th
  • Projected seed: No. 3

The Knicks hold a two-loss lead over the No. 5 Hawks, but that lead is effectively three games as the Knicks own the tiebreaker. The bigger threat to jump the Knicks is Miami, which also trails New York by two in the loss column but has the advantage of owning the tiebreaker via a 3-0 season-series sweep. The Knicks have clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 4
  • Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 6
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 3rd
  • Projected seed: No. 4

5. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks beat Portland Monday night and have clinched at least a spot in the play-in tournament. Entering play on Tuesday, Atlanta is two games back of the No. 4 Knicks, who own the tiebreaker. The more pressing concern is holding off No. 6 Miami and No. 7 Boston. The Hawks are tied in the loss column with Miami and lead Boston by one, and they own the tiebreaker over both. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 4
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 25th
  • Projected seed: No. 5

6. Miami Heat

The Heat have moved out of the play-in tournament for the time being. Miami is now one loss up on the No. 7 Celtics, but it has two head-to-head matchups remaining with Boston. Miami is tied with the No. 5 Hawks but Atlanta has secured the tiebreaker. The Heat have clinched at least a spot in the play-in tournament. Our SportsLine projections have the Heat ultimately falling back below Boston and into the play-in tournament at No. 7. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 16th
  • Projected seed: No. 7

(Current play-in teams)

7. Boston Celtics

Boston lost to Portland on Sunday and is now one loss back of No. 6 Miami. The Celtics play the Heat twice more before season’s end, so they still control their own destiny to move out of the play-in tournament. Boston has clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament with a seven-loss lead over the Raptors with seven games to play and the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 6
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 28th
  • Projected seed: No. 6

The Hornets are two losses back of No. 7 Boston, but the Celtics own the tiebreaker so that deficit is effectively three. The Hornets have a one-loss lead over No. 9 Indiana with the tiebreaker in hand, making that gap effectively two games. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 4
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 21st
  • Projected seed: No. 8

The Pacers lost to the Wizards on Monday night and now hold just a one-loss lead over No. 10 Washington, which has secured the tiebreaker, with one matchup remaining. Indiana trails No. 8 Charlotte by one game but the Hornets have the tiebreaker, making that a two-game deficit in reality. The Pacers are pretty safe to make the play-in tournament with a four-loss lead over the No. 11 Raptors and a five-loss lead over the No. 12 Bulls

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 5
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 14th
  • Projected seed: No. 9

10. Washington Wizards

The Wizards trail the No. 9 Pacers by one game with the tiebreaker secured and one head-to-head remaining on Saturday. The Wizards have a three-loss lead over the No. 11 Raptors and a four-loss lead over No. 12 Chicago with seven games to play. 

  • Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 4
  • Strength of remaining schedule: 19th
  • Projected seed: No. 10

(Outside looking in)

  • 11. Toronto Raptors — Three losses back of No. 10 Washington
  • 12. Chicago Bulls — Four losses back of No. 10 Washington

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