Clippers eliminated, still 5 spots up for grabs out West
A look at the NBA playoff picture, with four days remaining in the regular season:
The bracket was unchanged Saturday.
Milwaukee beat New York, improving to 43-37 on the season – tying Miami for the sixth-best record. But the Heat remain holders of the No. 6 seed, since they have the tiebreaker over the currently seventh-seeded Bucks.
Toronto now has the second-best record in the NBA. The Raptors are now a half-game ahead of Golden State.
The race is wild now: Six teams playing for five playoff spots, all to be decided over the next four days, and with all of those teams on either 45 or 46 wins.
There were no clinchers on Saturday, and – just like in the East – the potential first-round bracket was unchanged. San Antonio and Utah both could have wrapped up their postseason berths, but didn’t get the help they needed from other teams. The Spurs pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Portland, and Oklahoma City snapped Houston’s 20-game home winning streak.
Meanwhile, for the first time in seven years, the Clippers are not heading to the playoffs.
Doc Rivers’ team was eliminated, the final blow being a 134-115 loss to the Denver Nuggets. This will be the 13th time in franchise history the Clippers finish with a winning record, and in each of those years but one – until now – that’s been good enough for a postseason berth.
Denver, right now, is the odd team out. The Nuggets are ninth, but play their last two games against Portland and Minnesota, so they can still win their way into the postseason.
– Dallas at Philadelphia: If the 76ers win, they move closer to securing the No. 3 seed in the East.
– Indiana at Charlotte: Pacers would be assured of the No. 5 spot in the East with a loss; a win keeps their slim hopes of moving up alive.
– Atlanta at Boston: Celtics will be No. 2 in the East, so there’s really nothing to play for in this one.
– Orlando at Toronto: The East’s No. 1 seed, Toronto still has a shot at the NBA’s second-best record.
– Utah at L.A. Lakers: Jazz can clinch a playoff spot, and Quin Snyder has to be a coach of the year candidate.
– Golden State at Phoenix: The Warriors aren’t at their best, but a loss to the tanktastic Suns would be really bad.
– Detroit at Memphis has no playoff implication.
First-round matchups if the season ended Saturday …
East: 1-Toronto vs. 8-Washington, 2-Boston vs. 7-Milwaukee, 3-Philadelphia vs. 6-Miami, 4-Cleveland vs. 5-Indiana.
West: 1-Houston vs. 8-Minnesota, 2-Golden State vs. 7-Oklahoma City, 3-Portland vs. 6-San Antonio, 4-Utah vs. 5-New Orleans.
NOTE OF THE DAY
A year ago, only one Western Conference playoff spot was decided in the final seven days. This year, five will be decided in the final four days.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
”I just believe in protecting the league.” – Doc Rivers, after the Clippers were eliminated, on why he expects to play his regulars against playoff-contending New Orleans on Monday.