Seven of the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots have already
been secured while five of the Western Conference's eight postseason
tickets have been punched.
The East's Atlanta Hawks are two games ahead of the ninth-place New
York Knicks with each team having four games left on their
In the West, the sixth-seed Golden State Warriors are one game ahead
of the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks and two in front of the
ninth-place Memphis Grizzlies.
Dallas is two games left to play while their challengers for a
playoff spot each have four.
But the teams still chasing playoff spots face long odds of being
the last club standing as all but two of the previous 66 NBA
champions have come from teams that entered the postseason seeded
third or higher.
The top seed in the East has come down to a two-horse race between
the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, who play later on Friday in a
game that will put one team in control.
Indiana is currently a half-game ahead of Miami and with a road win
on Friday would move one victory away from securing the top seed and
home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs.
The Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls are locked in a battle for the
East's third seed with the former one win away from the Atlantic
Division title and the latter riding a season-high six-game winning
The Brooklyn Nets, three games back of Toronto and Chicago, look to
have the fifth seed locked up with a three-game cushion over the
Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards.
The East's Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics,
Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks have been
mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
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The San Antonio Spurs, 3-1/2 games up on the Oklahoma City Thunder
with three to play, can secure the top seed in the West with a win
later on Friday over a Suns team that is percentage points ahead of
The Los Angeles Clippers, who close out the regular season with
two of their three games against non-playoff teams, appear to have
the third seed wrapped up.
The fourth-seed Houston Rockets, who have three of their starters
battling injuries, can lock up home-court advantage in the first
round of the playoffs with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.
That leaves the fifth-seed Portland Trail Blazers left to fight off
a Warriors team that is 2-1/2 games back and trying to secure a
playoff spot and more favorable first-round opponent.
The West's Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans
Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Los Angels Lakers and Utah Jazz have all
been eliminated from playoff contention.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto)
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