2022 NBA Playoff Picture: Warriors drop to No. 4 below Mavericks; Lakers slide back into play-in … for now

By way of the Spurs’ last-second loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Lakers are back in the play-in picture for the time being as the West’s No. 10 seed, one game up in the loss column on San Antonio. The Lakers, of course, could give the spot right back with a loss in Utah on Thursday, with Anthony Davis and LeBron James both not expected to play. 

Also in the West, the Mavericks jumped the Warriors into the No. 3 seed by way of Golden State’s loss to Phoenix on Wednesday. Dallas and Golden State are tied in the loss column with Dallas having sealed the tiebreaker. 

In the East, the Heat went into Boston and knocked off the Celtics to retain the No. 1 seed. Boston falls to No. 4, one game back in the loss column of No. 3 Philly and two back of No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Milwaukee. 

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 Thursday, March 31.

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

Phoenix has clinched the No. 1 overall seed. 

  • Current first-round matchup: TBD (play-in results)  

The Grizzlies have clinched the No. 2 seed. 

3. Dallas Mavericks 

The Mavericks beat Cleveland on Wednesday and move to No. 3 by virtue of Golden State’s loss to Phoenix. The Mavericks and Warriors are tied in the loss column (Dallas has sealed the tiebreaker). 

  • Projected seed: 3
  • Current first-round matchup: Jazz
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Warriors: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Nuggets: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Jazz: Mavericks currently own via conference record (season series tied 2-2, neither team leading division at the moment)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Dallas leads season series 2-1 with one game to play

4. Golden State Warriors

After falling to Phoenix on Wednesday, the Warriors dropped into a tie in the loss column with Dallas (Mavericks own the tiebreaker). The Warriors lead the No. 5 Nuggets and No. 6 Jazz by two in the loss column. Golden State plays its final head-to-head vs. Utah on Saturday. 

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

5. Denver Nuggets

Denver moved up to No. 5 with a win over Indiana on Wednesday by way of win percentage. The Nuggets are tied with the Jazz in the loss column, however, and it’s Utah that owns the tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 6
  • Current play-in matchup: Warriors
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Warriors: Nuggets have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Jazz: Utah has clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Denver trails season series 2-1 with one game to play

6. Utah Jazz 

By way of win percentage, Utah has technically fallen to the No. 6 seed, behind Denver, but controls its own destiny to pass the Nuggets. Utah is tied in the loss column with Denver and has clinched the tiebreaker. The Jazz trail No. 4 Golden State by two in the loss column with one head-to-head remaining. 

  • Projected seed: 5
  • Current first-round matchup: Mavericks
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Mavericks: Dallas currently owns via conference record (season series tied 2-2, neither team leading their division at the moment)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Warriors: Jazz trail season series 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Nuggets: Jazz have clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Jazz have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves fell to Toronto on Wednesday and are now three games back in the loss column of the No. 6 Jazz and No. 5 Nuggets. It’s looking pretty firm that Minnesota will finish as the No. 7 seed, which will give it two cracks at a playoff berth. 

  • Projected seed: 7
  • Current play-in matchup: Clippers
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Nuggets: Timberwolves lead season series 2-1 with one game to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Jazz: Utah has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

8. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are pretty firm to remain in the No. 8 spot, leading the No. 9 Pelicans by four games in the loss column with six to play.

  • Projected seed: 8
  • Current play-in matchup: Timberwolves
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Pelicans: New Orleans has clinched with 3-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Lakers: Clippers have clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

9. New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans is one game up on the No. 10 Spurs and No. 11 Lakers. New Orleans has one game left vs. the Lakers on Friday.

  • Projected seed: 9
  • Current play-in matchup: Lakers
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Lakers: Pelicans have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 11 Spurs: San Antonio has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

10. Los Angeles Lakers 

Thanks to the Spurs’ loss on Wednesday, the Lakers have backed back into the final play-in spot for the time being. With seven games remaining, the Lakers are one game up in the loss column on San Antonio (Spurs own the tiebreaker via conference record). The Lakers trail the No. 9 Pelicans by one in the loss column with one matchup remaining on Friday night. 

  • Projected seed: 10
  • Current play-in matchup: Pelicans
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Pelicans: Pelicans have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 11 Spurs: San Antonio currently owns via conference record (head-to-head tied 2-2, neither team leads division)

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

  • No. 11 San Antonio Spurs: Trail No. 10 Lakers by one in loss column (Spurs own tiebreaker)

EASTERN CONFERENCE


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The Heat defeated Boston on Wednesday and remain tied with No. 2 Milwaukee in the loss column (Miami owns the tiebreaker via conference record). The Heat have a one-loss lead over the No. 3 Sixers and a two-loss lead over the No. 4 Celtics. Miami has clinched a playoff spot. 

  • Projected seed: 1
  • Current first-round matchup: TBD (play-in results)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Heat currently own via conference record (season series 2-2, both teams leading division)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Philadelphia: Heat currently own via conference record (season series tied 2-2, both teams leading division)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Boston: Celtics have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Heat have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup remaining

The Bucks are tied in the loss column with the No. 1 Heat and No. 2 Sixers. They play Philly for the final time on Tuesday night in a game that will decide the season tiebreaker. The Bucks lead the No. 4 Celtics by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining on April 7. 

  • Projected seed: 2
  • Current first-round matchup: Raptors
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Miami currently owns via conference record (season series 2-2, both teams leading division)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Philadelphia: Bucks have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Boston: Bucks trail season series 2-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Bucks lead season series 2-0 with two games remaining

The Sixers lost to the Bucks on Tuesday and are now one game back of the No. 1 Heat and No. 2 Bucks with seven games to play. The Sixers are one game up on the No. 4 Celtics. If the Sixers and Celtics finished tied, being that they’re both in the Atlantic Division and the season series is tied 2-2, the next tiebreaker would be division record, which would go to Boston at the moment (9-7 vs. 6-9 for Philly). 

  • Projected seed: 4
  • Current first-round matchup: Cavs vs. Nets play-in winner
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Miami currently owns via conference record (season series tied 2-2, both teams leading division)  
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Bucks have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Boston: Boston currently owns as with better Atlantic division record
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Sixers have clinched via 4-0 head-to-head advantage

The Celtics lost to Miami on Wednesday to fall one game back of the No. 3 Sixers and two games back of the No. 1 Heat and No. 2 Bucks, the latter of which Boston still plays one more time. Boston leads the No. 5 Bulls by two in the loss column with one head-to-head remaining, which will decide the tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 3
  • Current first-round matchup: Bulls
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Celtics have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup left
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Celtics lead season series 2-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Philadelphia: Sixers currently own as Atlantic division leader (head-to-head tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Season series tied 1-1 with one game remaining

5. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls feel relatively safe to secure a top-six seed with an effective three-game lead over the No. 7 Cavs with six to play. Chicago is tied in the loss column with No. 6 Toronto (Bulls have clinched the tiebreaker), and it trails No. 4 Boston by two games with one head-to-head remaining. 

  • Projected seed: 6
  • Current first-round matchup: Celtics
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Heat have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 2 Milwaukee: Bulls trail season series 2-0 with two games remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Philadelphia: Sixers have clinched via 4-0 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Boston: Season series tied 1-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Toronto: Chicago has clinched tiebreaker via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Cleveland: Chicago has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

6. Toronto Raptors 

The Raptors beat Minnesota on Wednesday and are two games ahead of the Cavs for the No. 6 seed (Cleveland has the tiebreaker). The Raptors are tied with the No. 5 Bulls (Chicago has clinched the tiebreaker). SportsLine projections have the Raptors jumping Chicago and finishing as the No. 5 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 5
  • Current play-in matchup: Nets
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Chicago has clinched tiebreaker via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Cleveland: Cavs have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with game remaining

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

The Cavaliers have fallen into the play-in, two games back of the No. 6 Raptors (Cleveland has the tiebreaker) and the No. 5 Bulls (Chicago has the tiebreaker). The Cavs have a two-game lead over the No. 8 Nets with six to play, and they play each other in the final week of the season. 

  • Projected seed: 7
  • Current first-round matchup: Nets
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Bulls have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Toronto: Cavs have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Brooklyn: Nets lead season series 2-1 with one matchup remaining

8. Brooklyn Nets 

The Nets have a one-loss lead over the Hornets, who have secured the tiebreaker, with six to play. The Nets also lead the No. 10 Hawks by one in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining. Brooklyn still has a shot to catch No. 7 Cleveland, which they trail by two in the loss column with one head-to-head matchup remaining. If the Nets win that game, they would clinch the tiebreaker over the Cavs. 

  • Projected seed: 8
  • Current play-in matchup: Cavs
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Cleveland: Nets lead season series 2-1 with one matchup remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Charlotte: Hornets have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Atlanta: Nets have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one game remaining

The Hornets trail Brooklyn by one in the loss column (Charlotte has the tiebreaker). Charlotte is tied in the loss column with No. 10 Atlanta (Hornets currently own a slight edge in the tiebreaker with one fewer conference loss). 

  • Projected seed: 9
  • Current play-in matchup: Hawks
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Brooklyn: Hornets have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Atlanta: Hornets currently own via conference record

The Hawks are tied in the loss column with the No. 9 Hornets. The Hawks trail the No. 8 Nets by one in the loss column with one matchup remaining against Brooklyn (the Nets have already clinched the tiebreaker).

  • Projected seed: 10
  • Current play-in matchup: Hornets
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Brooklyn: Nets have clinched via 2-0 head-to-head advantage with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Charlotte: Charlotte currently owns via conference win percentage

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