A win for the New York Knicks clinched them a berth in the 2023 NBA Playoffs and gifted the Portland Trail Blazers with this year’s lottery-protected pick they received from New York in the Josh Hart deal. But, the standings have much more at play as the season winds down.
As it stands, the Western Conference race is still hot. Only three teams have punched their ticket to the playoffs — the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings. With every seed from No. 4 to No. 12 having at best four more games remaining, it’ll be a race to the finish as all nine teams jockey for position.
The Mavericks are out of playoff range, being four games back from the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 6. The Utah Jazz being 0.5 games back from Dallas also only have the play-in to strive for. Additionally, within seeds No. 7 through No. 10, they are separated by 2.5 games and have seen many shifts in recent days.
Back-to-back 30-point games from Brandon Ingram have further resurrected the New Orleans Pelicans from a midseason plummet back into the mix and the return of LeBron James has added to a Los Angeles Lakers team that has gone 5-1 in their last six games.
Out in the Eastern Conference, all but one of the six playoff spots are secured, with the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets needing just a couple more wins to shut the door on the Miami Heat nipping at their heels.
The Chicago Bulls (No. 10) just need one more win in their last four games to safely make the play-in. They sit four games ahead of the Washington Wizards (No. 11), Orlando Magic (No. 12) and 4.5 games ahead of the Indiana Pacers (No. 13). However, only the Magic can overtake the Bulls in the standings based on tiebreakers. Should the Magic and Bulls each finish with 38 wins, Orlando would win the tiebreaker.
All of those teams are ahead of the Blazers in the lottery standings. Even after Sunday’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Blazers sit with the fifth-best lottery odds behind the Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons.
Portland’s best odds at the No. 1 pick for the end of the season is No. 5, but Washington, Orlando and Indiana could swap places with the Blazers as the final week of the season begins.