Sports

East seeds 4, 5 and 6 hold serve


With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and more important — than ever, with almost every game down the stretch having significant postseason implications.

Play-in matchups following Wednesday’s games

Play-in games to be held May 18-21

How the play-in tournament will work

Current NBA standings

EAST

Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Washington/Indiana winner at Boston/Charlotte loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs

WEST

Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Memphis/San Antonio winner at Lakers/Golden State loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Teams that clinched Thursday

Already in

EAST

Playoff spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

Play-in spots (seeds 7-10): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers

WEST

Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets

Play-in spots: Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs


Here’s a breakdown of the key games from Thursday and what the results mean for the seedings:

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0:16

Trae Young shakes his defender, crosses over and pulls up for the high-percentage bucket.

In the race to finish fourth in the East, wins across the board left things status quo among the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and New York Knicks Thursday night.

The Hawks took a big step toward securing that fourth seed with an emphatic 116-93 win over the hapless Orlando Magic. The win leaves Atlanta with one final game on Sunday against the league-worst Houston Rockets. If Atlanta wins that game, and the Knicks and Heat win out, the Hawks will win the Southeast Division and clinch the fourth seed.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, blew out the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping them in line to finish fifth. Miami owns the tiebreaker over the New York Knicks, so if all three teams remain tied until the end of the regular season, Miami would get the fifth seed. The Heat have two games left — at Milwaukee on Saturday and at Detroit on Sunday.

New York picked up a victory, as well, though it was a far more difficult one to get, as the Knicks eventually came away with a 102-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, and the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

If two of the trio of Atlanta, New York and Miami are tied at the end of the season, here are how the tiebreaker scenarios break out:

  • Atlanta wins the tiebreaker with Miami

  • Miami wins the tiebreaker with New York

  • New York wins the tiebreaker with Atlanta

Charlotte and Indiana losing Thursday night also officially locks the Celtics into the seventh seed in the East, and they will host the 7-8 game in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament next Tuesday. Charlotte and Indiana are tied with 33 wins, while the Washington Wizards have 32. — Tim Bontemps

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0:36

Coby White gets out in transition and throws down a monster jam on Stanley Johnson.

With the Chicago Bulls beating the Toronto Raptors Thursday night, Chicago still has very slim hopes of making the play-in tournament. It would still require a lot — the Wizards losing their final two games, and the Bulls winning their final two — but that’s better than having no chance at all.

The Sacramento Kings, on the other hand, don’t have a chance at all after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. The Kings needed to win out and the Spurs needed to lose out, but Thursday’s loss will officially extend Sacramento’s league-leading playoff drought to 15 years. The Spurs, meanwhile, backed into the No. 10 slot in the West.

Memphis kept itself in the running for the chance to finish with the eighth seed in the Western Conference with the win. If the Grizzlies beat the Kings again Friday, it will ensure that Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors will be, essentially, a one-game playoff for the eighth playoff spot in the West, which means the difference between having to win one of two games to make the playoffs, or having to win two in a row. — Bontemps


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0:19

The Clippers run the pick-and-roll, with Rajon Rondo finding Kawhi Leonard with a slick pass for a lay-in plus the foul.

Nic Batum enjoyed his return to Charlotte.

Deemed expendable last season when the Charlotte Hornets went with their youth movement, Batum scored 11 points and hit two 3’s to help the Los Angeles Clippers take a 113-90 win.

With help from Batum, the Clippers played better than they have of late and continue to hold on to the third seed ahead of Denver with two games remaining at Houston and Oklahoma City.

For the Hornets, this was a game they needed. They remain tied with the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte, which owns the tiebreaker for the No. 8 seed over Indiana, has lost three straight and can use Miles Bridges back for the final two games of the season against the Knicks and Wizards. — Ohm Youngmisuk



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