NBA Playoff Picture 2024: Updated Play-in Standings, Predictions After April 9

NBA Playoff Picture 2024: Updated Play-in Standings, Predictions After April 9

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 9: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives to the basket during the game against the Detroit Pistons on April 9, 2024 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Eastern and Western Conference play-in pictures didn’t receive much more clarity after the conclusion of Tuesday’s games.

Teams from fourth through eighth places in the Eastern Conference are separated by just two games, and the best team of that bunch is in seventh (the scorching-hot Philadelphia 76ers, led by the returning Joel Embiid).

In the West, the sixth-place New Orleans Pelicans now have a game in hand on the seventh-place Phoenix Suns, but it’s really anyone’s guess how No. 6 through No. 10 shakes out with all involved teams enduring brutal schedules down the stretch.

Here’s a look at the current standings and predictions on what may be ahead, with a peak at upcoming schedules.

Updated NBA Standings

Eastern Conference

1. Boston (62-17)

2. Milwaukee (48-31)

3. New York (47-32)

4. Orlando (46-33)

5. Cleveland (46-33)

6. Indiana (46-34)

Play-In Race

7. Philadelphia (45-35)

8. Miami (44-35)

9. Chicago (37-42)

10. Atlanta (36-43)

The magic number to clinch a top-six seed is 48, with 47 a possibility if tiebreakers fall your way. Who is getting there?

The New York Knicks need to win just one of their last three (at Boston, home vs. Brooklyn, home vs. Chicago). They should take at least one of the final two at worst.

The Orlando Magic close with a tough trio (home and away vs. Milwaukee, at scorching-hot Philadelphia). However, it’s unclear if Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will play in either game due to a left calf strain. The guess is Orlando wins at one and falls to Philly.

Cleveland is reeling after losing four of its last five, but the team closes with three home games, two of which are against the lowly Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies. Two wins is the pick.

Indiana should most likely take care of business at home against Atlanta. A road matchup at Cleveland is tougher, but the Pacers should get to 47 wins minimum.

Philadelphia is on fire and will be favored to take care of business to close the season at home vs. Orlando and Brooklyn.

Miami also closes at home and gets two against the 25-win Toronto Raptors, although the playoff-bound Dallas Mavericks are paying a visit. In this guessing game, the Heat win two of three to close out, end with 46 wins and finish eighth.

Where does that leave us?

The guess here is that the Knicks and Cavs will round out the top four, with the Pacers, 76ers and Magic all finishing with 47 wins. The tiebreaker is head-to-head-to-head, and that would leave the Magic out in the cold at No. 7 should they lose to Philadelphia.

Play-In Prediction: 7. Orlando (47-35), 8. Miami (46-36), 9. Chicago (39-43), 10. Atlanta (37-45)

Western Conference

1. Minnesota (55-24)

2. Denver (54-24)

3. Oklahoma City (54-25)

4. Los Angeles Clippers (51-28)

5. Dallas (49-30)

6. New Orleans (47-32)

Play-In Race

7. Phoenix (46-33)

8. Sacramento (45-34)

9. Los Angeles Lakers (45-35)

10. Golden State (44-35)

After Tuesday’s games, this is more or less a battle for sixth, followed by a fight to sneak into the 7-8 game and avoid needing to win a pair of games to make the playoffs. That’s because the L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks have clinched playoff berths.

New Orleans is in the driver’s seat in sixth, one game ahead of the seventh-place Phoenix Suns. The good news is that the Pels have that nice cushion.

The bad news is two-fold: (a) they close with the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and L.A. Lakers, and (b) they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Suns. The pick here is one win down the stretch (home vs. Lakers) to finish 48-34.

That could very well be enough for the sixth seed, because the Suns could lose out. It’s getting dark early in Phoenix, which fell behind 35-4 at home to the L.A. Clippers before inevitably losing Tuesday.

Now the Suns close on the road vs. the Clippers again, the Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves. They may not win one game. The guess is they don’t and tumble all the way down to 10th.

If the Pels win one and the Suns go 1-2 at best, then New Orleans is sewing up that No. 6 seed. The Kings lost all their games to New Orleans and can’t beat the Pels on a tiebreaker. They need to win out and have New Orleans lose out. That’s unlikely.

They can take solace in the fact, though, that they close with three at home, one of which is against the 59-loss Portland Trail Blazers. Sacramento should avoid the dreaded 9-10 game, and the pick is for them to take two of three, finishing at 47-35.

The Lakers are very likely headed to the 9-10 game after a brutal loss to the Warriors. They can win out (at Memphis, at New Orleans) and get some help, but the odds are stacked against them. The pick is for them to finish ninth (46-36).

Meanwhile, the Warriors are flying high, winning eight of nine. They have a very manageable schedule, with games at the Blazers, and home vs. the Pels and the Jazz (losers of 13 straight). They can easily win all three. The pick is for them to do so and find themselves in the 7-8 game.

Play-In Prediction: 7. Sacramento (47-35, divisional record tiebreaker, head-to-head with Golden State is 2-2), 8. Golden State (47-35), 9. Los Angeles Lakers (46-36, head-to-head tiebreaker), 10. Phoenix (46-36)

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