By Jacob Murphy
With just one week left to go in the NBA regular season, the standings continue to change on a daily basis and will continue to do the same over the next week. Both the Eastern and Western Conferences will look different at the end of this week than they do today.
While the Easten Conference has gotten a bad rap over the last several years, there are several quality teams with playoff hopes up and down the standings. The 76ers are in first place and up on the 2 seed Brooklyn Nets by three games. The Bucks are sitting in 3rd place only a half game behind the Nets. The Bucks are heating up at the right time as they are winners of their last 5 games. The Bucks and Nets have a lot at stake over the next week to see who will play the 7 seed in the first round. That 7 seed could look a little different this year with the 4 teams ranked 7-10 all having a chance to be the 7 seed in the playoffs. The top three teams in the east are set but the 2 seed remains up for grabs as we head toward the end of a shortened season.
The 4 seed in the east is where things start to get interesting as there are only two games separating the 4 seed and 7 seed. As of Sunday May 9, the Knicks, Hawks, and Heat are ranked 4-6 and separated by a half game each. The two teams that finish in the 4 and 5 seeds will be better off due to avoiding the Bucks or Nets in the first round. The Knicks and Hawks have been playing out of their minds but face a tough road ahead as the Heat continue to breathe down their necks. The Celtics have fallen to a game behind the Heat and are looking ahead to the dreaded play-in tournament.
As for the bottom of the conference playoff teams they are locked in but the seeding could change. The Hornets are two games back of the Celtics in the 8 seed, the Wizards are 1.5 games back of the Hornets in the 9 seed, and the Pacers are a half game back of the Hornets in the 10 seed. With the new play-in tournament these teams will be fighting for their playoff hopes and lives in the next week.
The Western Conference is also very interesting as we wind down this NBA season. The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns are going to be the top two seeds, with the Jazz currently sitting a game and half up on the Suns. Similar to the Suns and Jazz the Clippers and Nuggets are set in stone in the 3 and 4 seeds. The Clippers are a game and a half up on the Nuggets so things could still change between the two.
The 5 seed in the West is where things get interesting. The Dallas Mavericks are currently in 5th place and only a half game up on the 6 seed Portland Trailblazers. LeBron and the Lakers have fallen into the 7 seed due to injuries and are two and a half games up on the 8 seed Golden State Warriors. The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs are in the 9 and 10 seeds and separated by two games. The New Orleans Pelicans still have a fighting chance are only two games back of the Spurs.
With only a week left until the play-in tournament and the playoffs it is time to buckle up for the end of the 2020-2021 NBA regular season.