Entering the final day of the 2015-16 season 28 teams are in action with 8 game outcomes solidifying NBA Playoffs seeds.
For as often as coaches say all 82 games matter the fact so much is left to be decided on the final day of the 2015-16 sort of proves that adage. Entering the day all but 2 teams will play this evening. Of the 14 games slated more than half will effect how the NBA Playoffs will begin this weekend. In some cases the variables are copious.
The Eastern Conference has 4 teams who’ve flip flopped in the middle of the playoff ladder and that situation remains the same entering the final day. In the Western Conference the Rockets and Jazz enter the day knowing they are vying for the final berth with Houston once again controlling their own fate.
Obviously the big stories entering the day beyond how the brackets will shake out are two fold and both based in the West as the Warriors attempt to make history and Kobe Bean Bryant plays the final game of his 2o year career. Fittingly a season which was punctuated by first finishes with equally tantalizing story lines. I’ll go on record stating this has been the best NBA season collectively in my memory. Enjoy the final day folks and bring on the post season!
Scanning the 14 games here’s how they break down:
Two games feature lottery teams:
- Pelicans at Minnesota
- Sixers at Bulls
Four games feature a combination of playoff teams already solidified in position and some lottery teams:
- Pacers (7) at Milwaukee
- Pistons (8) at Cavaliers (1)
- Raptors (2) at Nets
- Clippers (4) at Suns
Eight games whose result could effect seeds:
- Heat at Celtics
- Magic at Hornets
- Hawks at Wizards
- Spurs at Dallas
- Kings at Rockets
- Grizzlies at Warriors (notably GSW will be attempting to set the all time regular season win record and Steph Curry needs 8 made 3-pointers to reach 400)
- Nuggets at Blazers
- Jazz at Lakers
Next: Eastern Conference Seeds
Feb 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) dribbles the ball around Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert (4) at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors won 99-97. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Following games on Tuesday a few more of the round one series for the NBA Playoffs were cemented:
1 versus 8
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) will play Detroit Pistons (8). Notably the Pistons lead the series 2 – 1 and these teams finish the season playing each other. It will be interesting to see if Tyronn Lue will rest his starters allowing the Pistons to gain confidence heading into the weekend.
We’ve got some first round matchups out East. No. 1 Cavaliers vs. No. 8 Pistons and No. 2 Raptors vs. No. 7 Pacers!
— HoopsHabit (@HoopsHabit) April 13, 2016
2 versus 7
Toronto Raptors (2) will play Indiana Pacers (7). The Raptors and Pacers knowing their games won’t effect the bottom line will surely rest their core. For the Raptors expect to see Bruno Caboclo (2 years from being 2 years away) some run, and watch for his growth as he’s played significant minutes with the Raptors 905 which in my opinion has reduced the second 2 years away to one. I joke, but in one season playing consistent minutes has paid huge dividends for the young Brazilian.
Middle of the East Bracket
Seeds 3 through 6: This area of the NBA Playoffs bracket remains open with multiple options as I noted in yesterday’s column. The one change was Miami beat Detroit which locked in the 7 and 8 seeds and kept the real possibility for Miami to move into the third seed alive.
East Middle Bracket Current Placements:
Just like the majority of the season the four teams fighting for the middle of the East bracket are all so closely knit a single game separates them all. With that one team played on Tuesday and it effected the placement of three of the four teams in the middle.
- Miami moved up to third and play in Boston to finish the season. Of all the games in the East this one has the most effect on the outcome of the 4 middle seeds. (see the tie break scenarios below)
- Atlanta dropped to fourth following the Heat’s win over Detroit and play the Wizards tonight. Of note, John Wall has missed the past 4 games and Bradley Beal left the Hornets game after just 7:43 with a sore pelvis. Beal missed the Brooklyn game and is listed as questionable tonight. With nothing to play for it’s unclear if either of this talented back court will play. Normally, I’d say no, but given this is the final game of the Wizards’ season on their home court they might suit up. If I had to guess I’d say why risk further damage with nothing at stake. That said, the Wizards still beat the Hornets 113-98 so this win won’t be handed to them. Atlanta however will be motivated to win so they can re-capture the third seed.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas wasn’t thrilled with lack of minutes vs. Hornets. Says it’ll motivate him vs. Heat:https://t.co/AAxq5DDRwU
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 12, 2016
- The domino effect of Miami beating the Pistons served to drop the Hawks to 4th and Boston to 5th. As mentioned above the Celtics host the Heat tonight and will be gunning for the win because that would move them up to fourth and give them home court advantage in the first round.
- Charlotte remains sixth and closes out the season versus the Magic. Nic Batum twisted his ankle badly ter falling off in the past few games, but it came at a cost as Nic Batum twisted an ankle in their big win over the Celtics. Both Batum and Cody Zeller who has a sternum contusion are listed as questionable for tonight.
Next: Mix Up in the Middle
Feb 27, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) reacts after getting for a foul during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Tie Break Scenarios For Middle of Bracket
In terms of who owns the season series and tie breaks it breaks down as follows:
- Atlanta own the tie break over the Celtics and Hornets therefore the worst they can finish is fourth and only if Miami beat the Celtics. Since they own the tiebreak over the Celtics if Boston wins they’ll finish ahead of them in the third seed.
- Miami would win a tie break over the Hawks and Hornets. Variables: Heat beat Celtics or a Hawks loss results in Miami getting the third seed. If they lose and the Hawks win they finish in fifth. They CANNOT get the fourth seed.
- Boston owns the tie break over the Heat and Hornets. If the Celtics beat the Heat they’ll get the fourth seed by virtue of finishing with at best a tie with the Hawks who own the tie break over the Celtics. If the Celtics lose it will depend on what Charlotte does. A Celtic loss combined with a Hornets win would see the two teams swapping position (i.e. Hornets 5th, Celtics 6th)
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 12, 2016
- Charlotte is in the unenviable position of holding no tie breaks over the 3 teams, therefore they’ll either finish fifth or sixth. If they beat the Magic combined with a Celtics loss they’ll move up to fifth.
Improved Kemba Walker has Hornets back in the playoffs. https://t.co/y7gHAVOSbi
— NBA River (@nbariver) April 12, 2016
If you aren’t confused yet, kudos because I spent a good while trying to figure out all the variables. Suffice to say I’ve made a prediction below, and it doesn’t vary much from what I’ve said (and wanted) all season.
Next: Western Conference Seeds
Apr 5, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is defended by Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Much is up in the air in the West as only the top of the bracket is set:
- Golden State Warriors
- San Antonio Spurs
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Los Angeles Clippers
Kobe's final game. Golden State goes for 73. 9:30pm cannot get here soon enough!! #epicnightofbasketball
— Gaylan Towle II (@MisterTowle2) April 13, 2016
The rest of the bracket remains up in the air with 5 teams vying for the 4 spots and three of those teams confirmed to participate, but unclear of where they”ll be seeded (Blazers, Mavericks, Grizzlies). The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz know one of them will play the Warriors.
Tie Break Scenarios For lower Half of West Bracket
Looking at these 5 teams here are the options of where they can finish:
Blazers: Portland was the one of the two idle teams effected by play on Tuesday when the Clippers beat the Grizzlies. This ensured they’ll end up either 5th or 6th. They play the Nuggets tonight, and with a victory they can wrap up the 5th seed. However, if they lose and Dallas wins they’ll finish sixth by virtue of the Mavericks holding the tie break by winning their season series.
Despite losing 4 of 5 starters, the Blazers are back in the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season. pic.twitter.com/qBIm7UBUtA
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 7, 2016
Mavericks: Dallas will host the Spurs and can finish either in 5th, 6th or 7th. It’s unlikely they end up 7th as that would require a loss to the Spurs (with Popovich likely resting key players) combined with the very unlikely event of Memphis beating the Warriors at Oracle. A Blazers loss and Mavericks win would vault them into 5th. A Blazers win would mean the best they can finish is 6th regardless if they win or lose.
— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) April 12, 2016
Grizzlies: Memphis will likely finish 7th after losing to the Clippers, however in the event they upset the Warriors and the Mavericks lose they’ll finish 6th. I mentioned weeks ago when Memphis sat fifth with a 5 game lead on the Blazers there was a real possibility of the Grizzlies falling out of the playoffs altogether. With their loss to the Clippers they fell to seventh, but will still make the playoffs by virtue of the Rockets and Jazz not seizing opportunities the past few weeks.
Clippers won't face the Grizzlies in the opening round of the playoffs after win 110-84 https://t.co/PTT6GHyBYH
— Eric Bledsoe News (@EricBledsoeNews) April 13, 2016
Rockets and Jazz: The final seed comes down to the Rockets and Jazz. Houston control their own destiny as they’ll host the Kings who’ve previously stated they won’t play DeMarcus Cousins on the road again which gives them a leg up.
Reminder: If Rockets make playoffs, they lose their draft pick to Denver as part of the Ty Lawson trade. Hefty price to face Warriors.
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) April 12, 2016
However if the Rockets lose they’ll end up waiting to see whether the Jazz can beat the Lakers. To that end, the only way the Jazz can finish eighth is if Houston loses and they win. Normally that would sound like a simple task, but the Jazz will be part of a spectacle tonight as Kobe Bryant plays the last game of his 2o year career at home. Further complicating the task is Rudy Gobert didn’t travel with the team after injuring his ankle.
Next: Final Game Predictions
Feb 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; The Boston Celtics celebrate after guard Avery Bradley (0) reacts after hitting a three-point shot to end the game and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. The Celtics won 104-103. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Prediction On Games Effecting Seeding
Heat at Celtics: Though Joe Johnson was quoted as saying they’ll approach this like a Game 7, the Heat haven’t exactly lit it up on the road. Further the Celtics have owned the Heat this season. Despite Johnson’s ‘Game 7’ comments, my gut says Spoelstra won’t want to risk injury to one Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside. Sure they’d love to get the 3 seed, but risking injury to an elder core doesn’t make sense especially when they will benefit from no back to back games in the playoffs. Brad Stevens will have his young guys amped to win and I suspect once Spoelstra sees they’ll play aggressive (meaning someone could get hurt) he may back off. If the Celtics get an early lead I think this one could be over quickly.
Magic at Hornets: Charlotte has the benefit of being at home, and although Orlando has been playing spoiler I envision the Hornets get the win.
Hawks at Wizards: I doubt Washington risk playing Wall and Beal (despite it being their final home game of the season), so I anticipate a Hawks victory
Spurs at Dallas: I suspect Popovich would send out the Spurs towel and water boys if he had the option, so I’m predicting a Mavericks win.
Kings at Rockets: They’ll be a more in depth Game Day Preview up on the site today. In the interim let’s just say as much as Houston has driven us (read: me) crazy all season not winning games they are favored to, I do anticipate they’ll seize the moment tonight.
Grizzlies at Warriors: Who are we kidding? Warriors set the all-time regular season win record with their 73rd victory and Steph Curry gets his 8 three pointers.
Nuggets at Blazers: Kudos to Damian Lillard for refusing to play down to expectations. Blazers win handily.
Jazz at Lakers: Utah may know their fate prior to tip-off given what I suspect will be a lengthy pregame ceremony. For the purists of the game (and one specific Space City Scoop staff writer – – read Coty Davis) I’m hoping the Jazz already know their fate following a Rockets victory. That will allow for them to ease off a bit and allow the Black Mamba to have a productive evening and go out with a bang. Lakers get the victory with Kobe putting up (no not 81, Coty but a decent number) 30 plus.
Next: Determining the Final Bracket
May 27, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) defends during the first half in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Predicted Round One Opponents
With the above prediction this is how I suspect the seeds will end up by night’s end:
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Cavaliers vs Pistons
Raptors vs Pacers
Hawks vs Hornets
Celtics vs Heat
Warriors vs Rockets
Spurs vs Grizzlies
Thunder vs Mavericks
Clippers vs Blazers
In case you missed it you can catch the All In Sports Talk, Blue Monday NBA show which highlights the final few games and discussion surrounding where the teams would finish:
— ALL IN Sports Talk (@allinsportstalk) April 12, 2016
Again, this is only my opinion, but if you’ve followed the All In Sports Talk NBA Blue Monday’s show the current board is close to how I predicted.
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