The final day of the 2021-22 regular season of the NBA is finally upon us, featuring 15 games that will have major impact on the Play-In Tournament and the Playoffs as well. The 20 post-season teams, 12 playoff and 8 play-ins, are already decided. But the seedings and quite a lot are left to be determined by the end of the day on Sunday when the dust settles. There are some potential team-tiebreaker scenarios for the East’s 2-4 and 7-10 seeds that are outlined in detail, but before we get there, be informed that the 6ers clinched top-four seed with victory over the Pacers on Saturday, locking the Raptors into 5th seed. The Warriors also moved a step closer to sealing number 3-seed with a win over San Antonio.
EASTERN CONFERENCE 1: MIAMI HEAT The Heat have clinched the 1-seed and homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will face the winner of the last Eastern Conference play-in game between the loser of the 7-8 matchup and the winner of the 9-10 matchup. Miami is probably fine with any result that doesn’t include the Brooklyn Nets. 2/3/4: MILWAUKEE BUCKS/BOSTON CELTICS/PHILADELPHIA 76ERS This permutations are complicated If the Bucks win, they finish with a better overall record than any other team, and they will clinch the 2-seed. If the Bucks lose, and the Celtics win, those two teams tie. Here are the tiebreakers: Head to head record: split 2-2. Conference record: would finish tied at 33-19. The next tiebreaker is record vs. conference playoff teams. Under those conditions, the Celtics will finish with a 20-13 record, the Bucks with a 17-15 record, and so the Celtics clinch the tiebreaker. So, if the Celtics win and the Bucks lose, the Celtics get the 2-seed and the Bucks get the 3-seed and will face the Bulls. You might be asking “what if the Sixers win and tie them if the Bucks lose and the Celtics win?” In a three-way tie involving division winners, the first thing you have to do is sort out division winners. So Boston beats the Sixers by having division-record tiebreaker, and the Bucks and Celtics go to 2 and 3 and then are sorted out by the above long-winded tiebreaker. The Sixers cannot move up to the 2-seed thanks to the Bucks’ win Friday. The Bucks have tiebreaker over the Sixers 2-1 in head-to-head and won their division, so no matter what, the Bucks will finish ahead of the Sixers. The Sixers can pass the Celtics, however. If the Celtics lose, and the Sixers win, the Sixers will get the 3-seed outright (regardless of what happens with the Bucks) and the Celtics will fall to the 4-seed. If all three teams win, the Bucks win outright on record, the Celtics beat the Sixers for 3rd with tiebreaker, and the Sixers wind up 4th. The Bucks play the Cavs, who are looking to regain control of the 7-seed and homecourt in the first play-in game. Milwaukee has listed most of its starters on the injury report as doubtful or questionable; it’s likely the Bucks rest, given that they cannot slide to 4th. The Celtics play the Grizzlies, who have nothing to play for, but that hasn’t stopped them from wreaking havoc over the last two weeks. The Sixers play the Pistons, who have nothing to fight for but are likely maneuvering for draft position.
My guess at the ideal path for the Celtics, and their fans, today: Pacers beat Nets Cavs beat Bucks Hornets beat Wizards Celtics beat Grizzlies That would make it: 2. BOS 3. MIL Then CLE & CHA would play in the 7-8 Play-In for 7-seed. Nets path would only be for the 8-seed. — Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) April 10, 2022
5: TORONTO RAPTORS The Raptors have clinched the 5-seed with their win Thursday over the Sixers and the Sixers’ win Saturday vs. the Pacers. They will face either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers in a first-round series. 6: CHICAGO BULLS The Bulls have clinched the 6th seed and will play either the Bucks, Celtics, or 6ers in the first round and will be heavy, heavy underdogs in any of those series. What an unfortunate finish to the season for such a fun and bright Bulls team through the first four months of the season. 7: BROOKLYN NETS/CLEVELAND CAVALIERS/ATLANTA HAWKS/CHARLOTTE HORNETS The Nets are tied with the Cavs and own tiebreaker and are one game up on the Hornets and Hawks. If the Nets win on Sunday vs. the Pacers, they are the 7-seed, no matter what else happens. Win and they are in the 7-spot, hosting the play-in games with two shots at a playoff spot. Should the Nets lose and the Cavs win, the Cavs slip by them and win the 7-seed. The Cavs face the likely resting Bucks Sunday. But if both the Nets and Cavs win, it stays the same as it is currently with the Nets in the 7-spot and the Cavs in 8th, visiting the Nets on Tuesday for the play-in game for the 7-seed.
The Nets have jumped from 10th to 7th in the span of 4 days. pic.twitter.com/dozSfpriWc — StatMuse (@statmuse) April 9, 2022
Shall we go through the aftermath of both of these outcomes?
If the Nets win and the Cavs lose:
The Hawks and Hornets have tiebreaker over the Cavs. The Hornets have tiebreaker over the Hawks.
So if the Cavs lose and the Hawks and Hornets both tie them, it goes to cumulative record between the two. The Hornets take that (despite the Hawks having tiebreaker over the Hornets directly) and move into the 8th spot to face Brooklyn, the Hawks would be 9th, and the Cavs slide all the way to 10th.
WESTERN CONFERENCE 1: PHOENIX SUNS The Suns locked the 1-seed several weeks ago and will have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs all the way through the Finals, if they reach them.
Phoenix is the second team in NBA history to achieve this feat. The Knicks did it in 1969-70 and went on to win the championship. pic.twitter.com/ilslwZP0TT — NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 10, 2022
2: MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES The Grizzlies are locked into the 2-seed and will have homecourt in the first-two rounds provided they advance. 3: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS/DALLAS MAVERICKS The Warriors lead by one game, and the Mavericks have the tiebreaker, so this one’s pretty simple. If the Warriors beat the Pelicans, they are the 3-seed. If the Mavericks lose to the Spurs, the Warriors are the 3-seed. If the Warriors lose and the Mavericks win, the Mavs are 3rd and the Warriors are 4th. 5/6: UTAH JAZZ/DENVER NUGGETS The Jazz and Nuggets are tied, but the Jazz have tiebreaker after sweeping the season series. If the Jazz win, they’re the 5-seed. If the Nuggets lose, the Jazz are 5 and the Nuggets are 6. If the Jazz lose and the Nuggets win, the Nuggets are the 5 and the Jazz are the 6. The Jazz play the Portland Trail Blazers tomorrow, and, honestly, I don’t know if it’s possible for any team to out-tank the Blazers right now. The Nuggets play the Lakers without their stars, and the Nuggets have already indicated they will rest their starters in that game. Denver likely wants to lose its game to the Lakers. They get the 6th seed and stay out of Phoenix’s side of the bracket. Frankly, there is not much of a difference between the Warriors and Mavericks for Denver. The Warriors are a better team but also a better matchup for Denver, and the Mavericks are a worse team but a tougher matchup for Denver. The Nuggets will be heavy dogs in either series. 7: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES The Wolves are locked into the 7th seed and will host the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday for the 7-seed. 8: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS The Clippers are locked into the 8th seed and will head to Minnesota to face the Wolves for the first play-in game. 9: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS The Pelicans are locked into the 9th seed and will host the Spurs on Wednesday. The winner faces the loser of Wolves-Clippers for the 8th seed. 10: SAN ANTONIO SPURS The Spurs are locked into the 10th seed and will have to win two road games to make the playoffs as the 8th seed, first against the Pelicans and then against the loser of Wolves-Clippers.
The Western Conference Play-In matchups are set. ▫️Timberwolves vs. Clippers ▫️Pelicans vs Spurs The winner of Pelicans vs Spurs faces the loser of Timberwolves vs Clippers for the final play-in spot. pic.twitter.com/tz2ZlyvJOR — The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) April 10, 2022
WHAT ARE THE MOTIVES? The Warriors and Mavericks both want to win to get the 3-seed. The Nets, Cavs, Hornets, and Hawks all want to win to try and move up or secure best play-in spot possible. The Jazz and Nuggets both are likely passive about their playoff position. The Celtics, Bucks, and Sixers all have questionable motivation. A 2-seed for Boston or Milwaukee risks a first-round series with Brooklyn, but they haven’t acted scared of the Nets at all, or they would have lost on Friday. The Sixers might want to move into the 3-seed for a matchup with the Bulls instead of the Raptors, but that means their second-round opponent is the Bucks or, possibly, the Nets.