NBA playoff picture, matchups, projections, tiebreakers: Lakers projected for No. 10 seed; Celtics on the rise

The Los Angeles Lakers have lost seven of their last 10 games and are 11 games under .500, but they still feel pretty safe to at least make the play-in round. Entering play on Sunday, the ninth-seeded Lakers have just a two-loss lead over the No. 12 Blazers, but Portland is actively tanking and will fall out of the race soon. The threat is the No. 11 Spurs, who aren’t that close, trailing the Lakers by three games in the loss column with 11 to play. The Pelicans are 10th, but have the same amount of losses as Los Angeles yet one fewer win.

We’re going to be keeping close tabs on the playoff race with daily updates the rest of the way. Below is where things stand entering play on Sunday, March 20.

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times and is constantly updating to reflect changing circumstances to produce the most unbiased and precise projections imaginable

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix has all but locked up the No. 1 overall seed. With 11 games remaining, the Suns have a nine-loss lead over the No. 2 Grizzlies and No. 3 Warriors for the West’s No. 1 seed, and a 10-loss lead over the Heat for the top overall seed. Phoenix has clinched a playoff berth. 

  • Projected seed: 1
  • Current first-round matchup: TBD (play-in results)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 GrizzliesSeason series 1-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Golden State leads season series 2-1 with one to play

FIGHT FOR NO. 2 SEED

2. Memphis Grizzlies 

Memphis is tied in the loss column with No. 3 Golden State. If it comes down to a tiebreaker, the Grizzlies currently lead the head-to-head season series 2-1, but there is one matchup with Golden State remaining on March 28. Memphis maintains a three-loss lead over the No. 4 Jazz but that lead is effectively four as Memphis has clinched the tiebreaker. Memphis has a four-loss lead over the No. 5 Mavericks

  • Projected seed: 3
  • Current first-round matchup: Timberwolves vs. Clippers play-in winner
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Grizzlies lead season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Memphis has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

3. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are tied with No. 2 Memphis in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining. Golden State leads No. 4 Utah by three games in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining. Our SportsLine projections have the Warriors sticking as the No. 3 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 2
  • Current first-round matchup: Nuggets
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Grizzlies: Warriors trail season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Warriors lead season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

CURRENT PLAYOFF TEAMS

4. Utah Jazz

Utah trails No. 2 Memphis and No. 3 Golden State by three games in the loss column. The priority is hanging onto the No. 4 seed, and that’s going to be a photo finish. The Jazz lead No. 5 Dallas by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining. Projections have Utah hanging on to claim a top-four seed. 

  • Projected seed: 4
  • Current first-round matchup: Mavericks
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Grizzlies: Memphis has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Jazz trail season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Jazz lead season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Utah has clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

5. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks trail the No. 4 Jazz by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining on March 27. Dallas has an effective three-game lead over No. 6 Denver with the tiebreaker already secured and 12 games to play. 

  • Projected seed: 5
  • Current first-round matchup: Jazz
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Grizzlies: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Dallas trails season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage

6. Denver Nuggets

Denver trails the No. 5 Mavericks by an effective three games (Dallas owns tiebreaker) with 11 games to play. Denver’s priority is to hang onto a top-six seed. It leads No. 7 Minnesota by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining on April 1. Should Minnesota win that game, it will also secure the tiebreaker over Denver and this controls its own destiny for a top-six seed. 

  • Projected seed: 6
  • Current first-round matchup: Warriors
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Jazz: Utah has clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Denver trails season series 2-1 with one game to play

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves have a real shot to catch No. 6 Denver, which they trail by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining (which will decide the season tiebreaker). At worst, the Wolves are basically a lock to end up as the No. 7 seed with a seven-loss lead over the No. 8 Clippers, which means they’ll get two cracks at a play-in victory to secure a playoff spot. 

  • Projected seed: 7
  • Current play-in matchup: Clippers
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Timberwolves lead season series 2-1 with one game to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Clippers: L.A. has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

8. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are pretty firm in the No. 8 spot, trailing the No. 7 Timberwolves by seven in the loss column and leading the No. 9 Lakers by an effective four with the Clippers having clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 8
  • Current play-in matchup: Timberwolves
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Clippers have clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Lakers: Clippers have clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

9. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are pretty much resigned to the second play-in game (they trail the No. 8 Clippers by an effective four games with 12 to play). The only question is whether they’ll have home-court advantage in that 9-10 game. At present, the Lakers lead the No. 10 Pelicans by one game with two head-to-head matchups remaining. 

If the Pelicans can win those two games, they would also secure the tiebreaker. The Lakers feel pretty safe to at least make the play-in with a four-loss lead over the No. 12 Spurs. https://32f403bc1bf26018cf3fdb92dcf2c058.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

  • Projected seed: 10
  • Current play-in matchup: Pelicans
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Clippers: Clippers have clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Pelicans: Lakers trail season series 1-0 with two matchups remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 12 Spurs: San Antonio currently owns via conference record (head-to-head tied 2-2, neither team leads division)

10. New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans trail the No. 9 Lakers by one game with two head-to-head matchups remaining, which will determine the tiebreaker, meaning New Orleans controls its own destiny for the No. 9 seed. The Pelicans have opened up a three-loss lead over the No. 11 Spurs, but there are two head-to-head matchups remaining. 

  • Projected seed: 10
  • Current play-in matchup: Lakers
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Lakers: Pelicans lead season series 1-0 with two matchups remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 12 Spurs: Pelicans trail season series 2-0 with two matchups remaining

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

  • No. 11 San Antonio Spurs: Trailing No. 10 New Orleans by three in the loss column with two matchups remaining. 
  • No. 11 Portland Trail Blazers: Trailing No. 10 New Orleans by two in the loss column, but assumed to be tanking. 

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