Tuesday, May 24, 2022

2022 NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers have fallen outside play-in; Bucks jump to No. 2, seal tiebreaker over Sixers

If the regular season were to end today, the Los Angeles Lakers would not even qualify for the play-in tournament. With their loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday, the Lakers dropped to the West’s No. 11 seed — tied in the loss column with No. 10 San Antonio, which owns the tiebreaker via conference record.  

The Lakers have seven games remaining, and they could have LeBron James and Anthony Davis back for Friday’s matchup vs. the No. 9 Pelicans, who lead the Lakers by one in the loss column. 

Also on Tuesday, the Bucks defeated the 76ers to move one game up in the loss column on Philadelphia and Boston. The Bucks are now the East’s No. 2 seed, tied in the loss column with No. 1 Miami, while Philly falls to No. 3. 

We’re going to be keeping close tabs on the playoff race with daily updates the rest of the way. Below is where things stand entering play on Wednesday, March 30.

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times and is constantly updating to reflect changing circumstances to produce the most unbiased and precise projections imaginable

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix has clinched the No. 1 overall seed. 

  • Current first-round matchup: TBD (play-in results)  

2. Memphis Grizzlies 

The Grizzlies have opened up an effective six-game lead over No. 3 Golden State with six to play, so they can’t drop behind the Warriors. The only team that can mathematically catch the Grizzlies is the Mavericks, who trail by six in the loss column with the tiebreaker over Memphis secured. Memphis’ magic number to seal the No. 2 seed is one. 

  • Projected seed: 2
  • Current first-round matchup: Timberwolves vs. Clippers play-in winner
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Grizzlies have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Memphis has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

3. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors cannot catch Memphis for the No. 2 seed. Now they have to try to hold off No. 4 Dallas, which they lead by one in the loss column with the Mavericks having secured the tiebreaker, and No. 5 Utah, which they lead by two with one matchup remaining. 

  • Projected seed: 3
  • Current first-round matchup: Nuggets
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Grizzlies: Grizzlies have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Warriors lead season series 2-1 with one to play

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

4. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks defeated the Lakers on Tuesday and remain one loss behind No. 3 Golden State with the tiebreaker secured. Dallas effectively leads No. 6 Denver by three games with the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Projected seed: 5

  • Current first-round matchup: Jazz

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Utah currently own as division leader (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Dallas leads season series 2-1 with one game to play

5. Utah Jazz

Utah is one game back of the Mavericks. Utah leads the No. 6 Nuggets by an effective two games with seven to play. (Currently in action vs. the Clippers). 

  • Projected seed: 4
  • Current first-round matchup: Mavericks

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Jazz trail season series 2-1 with one to play

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Mavericks: Utah currently own as division leader (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Utah has clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

6. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets trail the No. 5 Jazz by an effective two games with six to play. The priority is staying out of the play-in. Denver leads No. 7 Minnesota by two games in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining on April 1. 

  • Projected seed: 6

  • Current play-in matchup: Clippers

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Utah has clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Denver trails season series 2-1 with one game to play

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves are two losses back of No. 6 Denver with one head-to-head matchup remaining (April 1). If Minnesota wins that game, it would clinch the season tiebreaker over Denver. 

  • Projected seed: 7

  • Current play-in matchup: Clippers

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Timberwolves lead season series 2-1 with one game to play

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Clippers: L.A. has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

8. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are pretty firm to remain in the No. 8 spot, leading the No. 9 Pelicans by four games in the loss column with seven to play. (Currently in action vs. the Jazz). 

  • Projected seed: 8

  • Current play-in matchup: Timberwolves
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Pelicans: New Orleans has clinched with 3-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Lakers: Clippers have clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

9. New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans is one game up on the No. 10 Spurs and No. 11 Lakers. New Orleans has one game left vs. the Lakers on Friday.

  • Projected seed: 9

  • Current play-in matchup: Lakers

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Lakers: Pelicans have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 11 Spurs: San Antonio has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

10. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs moved into the No. 10 seed by virtue of the Lakers’ loss to Dallas on Tuesday. San Antonio is tied in the loss column with the Lakers but currently owns the tiebreaker by way of a better conference record. San Antonio trails the No. 9 Pelicans by one in the loss column (Spurs have the tiebreaker). 

  • Projected seed: 10

  • Current play-in matchup: Pelicans
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Pelicans: San Antonio has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 11 Lakers: San Antonio currently owns via conference record (head-to-head tied 2-2, neither team leads division)

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

  • No. 11 Los Angeles Lakers: Tied in the loss column with No. 10 Spurs, who currently own the tiebreaker

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Miami Heat

The Heat are tied in the loss column with No. 2 Milwaukee. The Heat have a one-loss lead over the No. 3 Sixers and No. 4 Celtics. Miami has one head-to-head matchup left with Boston on Wednesday. 

  • Projected seed: 1
  • Current first-round matchup: TBD (play-in results)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Heat currently own via conference record (season series 2-2, both teams leading division)

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Boston: Celtics have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Philadelphia: Heat currently own via conference record (season series tied 2-2, both teams leading division)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Heat have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup remaining

2. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are tied in the loss column with the No. 1 Heat and No. 2 Sixers. They play Philly for the final time Tuesday night in a game that will decide the season tiebreaker. The Bucks lead the No. 4 Celtics by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining on April 7. 

  • Projected seed: 2

  • Current first-round matchup: Raptors

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Miami currently owns via conference record (season series 2-2, both teams leading division)

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Boston: Bucks trail season series 2-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Philadelphia: Bucks have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Bucks lead season series 2-0 with two games remaining

3. Boston Celtics

The Celtics fell to Toronto on Monday and now trail the No. 1 Heat and No. 2 Bucks by one in the loss column with six games to play. Boston controls its own destiny to pass both Miami and Milwaukee with one game left against each and paths to the tiebreaker over both. If the No. 4 Sixers and Celtics finished tied, being that they’re both in the Atlantic Division and the season series is tied 2-2, the next tiebreaker would be division record, which would go to Boston at the moment (9-7 vs. 6-9 for Philly). 

  • Projected seed: 3

  • Current first-round matchup: Bulls

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Celtics have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Celtics lead season series 2-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Philadelphia: Celtics currently own as Atlantic division leader (head-to-head tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Season series tied 1-1 with one game remaining

4. Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers lost to Milwaukee on Tuesday and are now one back of the the No. 1 Heat and No. 2 Bucks with seven games to play. The Sixers are tied in the loss column with the No. 3 Celtics, who currently have the edge via a slightly better win percentage. If the No. 4 Sixers and Celtics finished tied, being that they’re both in the Atlantic Division and the season series is tied 2-2, the next tiebreaker would be division record, which would go to Boston at the moment (9-7 vs. 6-9 for Philly). 

  • Projected seed: 4

  • Current first-round matchup: Cavs vs. Nets play-in winner

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Miami currently owns via conference record (season series tied 2-2, both teams leading division)  

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Bucks have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Boston: Celtics currently owns as Atlantic division leader (head-to-head tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Sixers have clinched via 4-0 head-to-head advantage

5. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are suddenly clinging to a playoff berth, tied with the No. 6 Raptors and just one game up on the No. 7 Cavs. Fortunately, Chicago has the tiebreaker over both with seven games left. SportsLine projections have the Bulls falling below Toronto and ending up as the No. 6 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 6

  • Current first-round matchup: Celtics

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Heat have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup remaining

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Philadelphia: Sixers have clinched via 4-0 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Milwaukee: Bulls trail season series 2-0 with two games remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Boston: Season series tied 1-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Toronto: Chicago has clinched tiebreaker via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Cleveland: Chicago has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

6. Toronto Raptors 

The Raptors beat Boston on Monday to remain one game ahead of the Cavs for the No. 6 seed (Cleveland has the tiebreaker). The Raptors are also tied with the No. 5 Bulls (Chicago has clinched the tiebreaker). SportsLine projections have the Raptors jumping Chicago and finishing as the No. 5 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 5

  • Current play-in matchup: Nets

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Chicago has clinched tiebreaker via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Cleveland: Cavs have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with game remaining

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

7. Cleveland Cavaliers 

The Cavaliers have fallen into the play-in, one game back of the No. 6 Raptors with seven to play (Cleveland has the tiebreaker) and one game back of the No. 5 Bulls (Chicago has the tiebreaker). The Cavs have a three-loss lead over the No. 8 Nets. SportsLine projections have Cleveland sticking at No. 7. 

  • Projected seed: 7

  • Current first-round matchup: Nets
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Bulls have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Toronto: Cavs have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

8. Brooklyn Nets 

The Nets have a one-loss lead over the Hornets, who have secured the tiebreaker, with six to play. The Nets also lead the No. 10 Hawks by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining. 

  • Projected seed: 8

  • Current play-in matchup: Cavs
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Charlotte: Hornets have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Atlanta: Nets have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one game remaining

9. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets fell to Denver on Monday to drop back below Brooklyn, which they now trail by one in the loss column (Charlotte has the tiebreaker). Charlotte is tied in the loss column with No. 10 Atlanta (Hornets currently own a slight edge in the tiebreaker with one fewer conference loss). 

  • Projected seed: 9

  • Current play-in matchup: Hawks

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Brooklyn: Hornets have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Atlanta: Hornets currently own via conference record

10. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are tied in the loss column with the No. 9 Hornets. The Hawks trail the No. 8 Nets by one in the loss column with one matchup remaining against Brooklyn (the Nets have already clinched the tiebreaker).

  • Projected seed: 10

  • Current play-in matchup: Hornets

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Brooklyn: Nets have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one game remaining

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Charlotte: Charlotte currently owns via conference win percentage

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

  • No. 11 New York KnicksFive losses back of No. 10 Atlanta and No. 9 Charlotte
  • No. 12 Washington Wizards: Five losses back of No. 10 Atlanta and No. 9 Charlotte

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