Less than a month remains in the NBA regular season and there is still so much up for grabs, including both No. 1 seeds and a three-team logjam for home-court advantage in the West. What follows is everything you need to know about where things stand entering Thursday, March 14. Team are listed in order of projected finishing seed. This post will continue to update for the remainder of the season as we keep track right 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 imaginable.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Fight for No. 1

Golden State Warriors (No. 1 seed)

Playing without Kevin Durant, Golden State got back on track with a 106-104 win over Houston on Wednesday night to maintain its slim lead over the Nuggets for the top spot out West. They’ve got a couple tough games coming up, and one matchup with the Nuggets still remaining. The Warriors have been vocal about wanting the No. 1 seed, if only as a goal to aim at as they prioritize getting in a groove down the stretch. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Three
  • SportsLine Projection: 86 percent to earn No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .487 (13th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Thunder, at Spurs, vs. Timberwolves
  • Tiebreaker: Currently own tiebreaker 2-1 over Denver (one matchup left)

Denver Nuggets (No. 2 seed)

Denver has a tough go down the stretch with 11 of its final 16 games against current playoff teams. Mike Malone has said he doesn’t even talk about the No. 1 seed with his team; they’re just keeping their head down until the finish line. Frankly, the No. 1 seed isn’t as important for the Nuggets because as the No. 2 seed, the only potential series in which they wouldn’t have home-court advantage is the conference finals. If they make it that far, they’re playing with house money anyway. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Five
  • SportsLine Projection: 6.3 percent to earn No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 16 (nine road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .536 (ninth-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Mavericks. vs. Pacers, at Celtics
  • Tiebreaker: Currently trail Warriors 2-1 head-to-head (one matchup left)

Fighting for Home-Court Advantage

Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 3 seed)

The Thunder currently hold the slimmest of leads on the No. 3 seed but our projections have them falling to No. 5. The Thunder got big wins over Brooklyn and Utah in their last two, but it gets tough from here. Four of their next five are against the Pacers, Warriors and Raptors twice. The good news is their schedule, though against tough opponents, is home-heavy the rest of the way. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Seven
  • SportsLine Projection: 16 percent to earn No. 3 seed, 46.7 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (nine home, five road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .580 (third-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: at Pacers, vs. Warriors, vs. Heat
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over both Houston and Portland

Houston Rockets (No. 4 seed)

Houston is currently No. 4 in the West but our projections have them vaulting to No. 3 by season’s end. The West No. 3 spot is a swing seed because whoever ends up there would avoid the Warriors — assuming they finish No. 1 — until the conference finals, while the 4-5 seeds would have to battle each other for the right to see Golden State in Round 2.  

Eric Gordon recently said he believes the Rockets are the only team that can knock off Golden State, and he’s perhaps right in the sense that nobody has given the Warriors as much trouble over the last two years. The Rockets are 3-1 vs. the Warriors this season and 8-6 over the past two years, including that seven-game WCF last season. One thing to keep in mind: Houston cannot win the tiebreaker vs. OKC or Portland if this thing comes down to a dead heat, which it very well could. The Rockets have already lost both those season series.

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Seven
  • SportsLine Projection: 38.5 percent to earn No. 3 seed, 82.8 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (seven home, seven road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .462 (seventh-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Suns, vs. Timberwolves, at Hawks
  • Tiebreaker: Already lost tiebreaker to both OKC and Portland

Portland Trail Blazers (No. 5 seed)

The Blazers currently sit at No. 5 but our projections have them reaching No. 4. Portland, winners of two straight, currently holds the tiebreaker over Houston if it comes to that, but it has already lost the tiebreaker to OKC. Again, getting to No. 3 would be the big thing to avoid Golden State until the conference finals. There’s no other team Portland wouldn’t at least have a shot to beat. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Eight
  • SportsLine Projection: 21 percent to earn No. 3 seed, 58.6 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .490 (14th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Pelicans, at Spurs, vs. Pacers
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Houston, lost tiebreaker to OKC

Rounding Out the Field

San Antonio Spurs (No. 6 seed)

The Spurs are currently No. 6 in the West but our projections have them sliding to No. 7 — largely because of current 7-seed Utah’s super-soft remaining schedule. The Spurs also have a pretty soft, home-heavy schedule down the stretch. They have already lost the tiebreaker to Utah and hold a slim tiebreaker edge over the Clippers (2-2 head-to-head) via a better conference record, which is far from cemented. San Antonio is getting hot at the right time, having won six straight including victories over the Bucks, Nuggets and Thunder. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 10
  • SportsLine Projection: 99.9 percent to make playoffs, 4.4 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (eight home, six road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .462 (seventh-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Knicks, vs. Blazers, vs. Warriors
  • Tiebreaker: Currently owns tiebreaker over Clippers via conference record; already lost tiebreaker to Jazz

Utah Jazz (No. 7 seed)

The Jazz are currently No. 7 in the West but our projections have them reaching No. 6 because they have the softest schedule in the league down the stretch. But they have to take advantage. Its last two losses have come to the Pelicans and the Grizzlies. It’s not out of the question that Utah can get on a run against some weak opponents and make it to a top-four seed. Entering Thursday, the Jazz are only three games back in the loss column of the No. 4 spot. At the same time, they’re only four games up on the No. 9 Kings. They’re most likely fighting with the Spurs and Clippers for seeds 6-8. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 11
  • SportsLine Projection: 99.9 percent to make playoffs, 8.4 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight home, seven road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .414 (easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Timberwolves, vs. Nets, at Wizards
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Spurs and Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers (No. 8 seed)

The Clippers have won five of six and continue to be one of the best stories in the league — depending on your perspective. If the Clippers make the playoffs, they lose their 2019 first-round pick, which is lottery protected, to the Celtics. When they traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers, there was some thought that they were looking to fall out of the playoff race and into the lottery, which would allow them to keep that pick. That doesn’t look like it’s going to be the case. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 10
  • SportsLine Projection: 97.6 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 13 (eight home, five road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .467 (ninth-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Bulls, vs. Nets, vs. Pacers
  • Tiebreaker: Already lost tiebreaker to Jazz, currently losing tiebreaker to Spurs via conference record

Outside Looking In

Sacramento Kings (No. 9 seed)

Sacramento is 4.5 games back — three in the loss column — of the final playoff spot. 

  • SportsLine Projection: 0.5 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 16 (nine road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .476 (11th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Celtics, at 76ers, vs. Bulls
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Spurs, already lost tiebreaker to Clippers
harden-paul-george.jpg
James Harden’s Rockets will need to fend off Paul George and the Thunder for the West 3-seed. USATSI

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Fighting for No. 1 seed

Milwaukee Bucks (No. 1 seed)

The Bucks are the first team to reach 50 wins and have a relatively soft schedule down the stretch. One thing to consider: While the No. 1 seed in the East carries with it home-court advantage, it also might lead to a tougher path through the bracket. If Indiana were to end up at No. 3 while other current seeds hold, it would be the No. 2 seed Raptors that would be in line to avoid the Bucks, Sixers and Celtics until the conference finals, while No. 1 seed Milwaukee could potentially have to go through two of those teams beginning in the second round. If Indiana stays out of the No. 3 seed, that scenario becomes moot, but it’s something to watch. 

  • Magic Number: Already clinched playoff spot; four to clinch top-four seed
  • SportsLine Projection: 95 percent to get No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (nine home, five road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .479 (12th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Heat, vs. 76ers, vs. Lakers
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Raptors

Toronto Raptors (No. 2 seed)

The Raptors, already projected as a certain top-four seed, have won four of their last seven games and, as mentioned above, could end up being in the perfect spot in the No. 2 seed if Indiana was to finish in third. If that were to happen, current seeds would pit the Raptors against Brooklyn and Indiana in the first two rounds, thus only forcing them to go through one of — rather than two of — Boston, Philly or Milwaukee — and not until the conference finals — for a trip to the NBA Finals. 

  • Magic Number: Already clinched playoff spot; seven to clinch top-four seed
  • SportsLine Projection: 4 percent to get No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (nine home, five road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .479 (12th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Lakers, at Pistons, vs. Knicks
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Sixers, already lost tiebreaker to Bucks

Fighting for Home-Court Advantage

Philadelphia 76ers (No. 3 seed)

The Sixers look like a virtual lock to end up in the top four. The key is staying in that No. 3 seed, which, if current seeds were to hold, would put them against Brooklyn in the first round. If the Sixers fall to No. 4, it will likely be a first-round matchup with Boston. That’s a big difference. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: One
  • SportsLine Projection: 92.8 percent to get top-four seed, 1 percent to get No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (nine road, five home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .472 (10th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Kings, at Bucks, at Hornets
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Pacers, Already lost tiebreaker to Bucks

Indiana Pacers (No. 4 seed)

What the Pacers have done in the absence of Victor Oladipo has been really impressive, but the schedule turns murderous starting Wednesday, which begins a run of eight straight games against current playoff teams. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: One
  • SportsLine Projection: 53.4 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (eight road, six home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .568 (fifth-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Thunder, at Nuggets, at Blazers
  • Tiebreaker: Already lost tiebreaker to Sixers, season series with Boston tied 1-1 with two to play

Boston Celtics (No. 5 seed)

Boston is currently the No. 5 seed out East and, despite Indiana’s tough slate down the stretch, our SportsLine projections have the Celtics staying there. Entering Thursday, Boston trails Indiana by two games, but as mentioned above, it also has two games left vs. Indiana. If Boston can get both of those, these projections will certainly change. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Three
  • SportsLine Projection: 53.8 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (seven home, seven road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .502 (14th-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Kings, vs. Hawks, vs. Nuggets
  • Tiebreaker: Clinched tiebreaker over Sixers, season series with Indiana tied 1-1 with two to play

Rounding Out the Field

Brooklyn Nets (No. 6 seed)

There is a clear cutoff at the No. 6 seed with Brooklyn trailing No. 5 Boston by seven games in the loss column with 12 to play. It’s a five-team race for the last three spots, and Brooklyn should have enough of a cushion to hold on despite its brutal remaining schedule. That said, our SportsLine projections have them falling behind Detroit to the No. 7 seed because of that schedule. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Eight
  • SportsLine Projection: 91.5 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 12 (eight road, four home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .605 (toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Jazz, at Clippers, at Kings
  • Tiebreaker: Clinched tiebreaker over Pistons, trail season series vs. Miami 2-1 with one to play

Detroit Pistons (No. 7 seed)

The Pistons are currently in the No. 7 spot but our projections have them jumping the Nets for the No. 6 seed by season’s end. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 10
  • SportsLine Projection: 95.8 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight home, seven road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .506 (13th-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Lakers, vs. Raptors, at Cavs
  • Tiebreaker: Currently losing tiebreaker to Miami via Heat being a division leader, already lost tiebreaker to Nets

Miami Heat (No. 8 seed)

The Heat are currently No. 8 and our SportsLine projections have them staying there. Tough stretch coming up for Miami with dates against the Thunder, Spurs and the Bucks twice in four of their next five. Miami is battling to keep Orlando and Charlotte at the Nos. 9 and 10 spots to avoid the lottery. Our projections are pretty certain about the first seven seeds in the East, but this last spot is far less certain for Miami, which has the seventh-toughest remaining schedule. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 12
  • SportsLine Projection: 63.4 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 15 (nine road, six home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .543 (seventh-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Bucks vs. Hornets, at Thunder
  • Tiebreaker: Currently own tiebreaker over Detroit and Brooklyn, currently trail Orlando 2-1 in season series

Outside Looking In

Orlando Magic (No. 9 seed)

If the Magic are going to make a move, the time is now with their next four games all at home against the Cavs, Hawks, Pelicans and Grizzlies. And the last remaining game vs. Miami on March 26 is a virtual must-win. 

  • SportsLine Projection: 40.1 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 13 (seven road, six road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .459 (fifth-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Cavs, vs. Hawks, vs. Pelicans
  • Tiebreaker: Currently leads Miami 2-1 in season series

Charlotte Hornets (No. 10 seed)

SportsLine projections give the current No. 10 seed Hornets just a 6.8 percent chance to make the playoffs. We’ll revisit them next week if they can string a few wins together and make up some ground. 

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