All teams in the league will get a day of rest tonight, but there are still two days of games left before the regular season is over. After Orlando’s Division-clinching win, all but one team has been decided for the playoffs. Now just three teams are competing for the 8th and final playoff in the tightly-packed East. The Pistons, Hornets, and Heat all want to have a shot at a meeting with Bucks a week from now, so let’s break down the likelihood of each team claiming the 8th seed.
The Pistons were comfortably in the 6th seed just weeks ago, but they’ve lost several important games lately during a brutal finish to the year. Blake Griffin is an excellent player, but his history in Los Angeles and the Piston’s current record this year don’t make a great case that Griffin makes his teams definitively better. They’re now 39-41 with two games remaining.
- 2-7 in their last 9 games, with all but one against playoff teams. That one game? A loss to Charlotte.
- Remaining Games: Home vs. Memphis on 4/9, Road @ New York on 4/10. The Grizzlies are 32-48, while the Knicks are 16-64.
- 1-0 against Memphis this year, and 3-0 against the Knicks.
- If they win both games, they will secure the 8th seed. If they lose 1, they can still clinch if so long as Charlotte doesn’t win both games. If they lose 2, they’ll need Charlotte to lose both as well, and Miami only has to lose once.
- For Tiebreaker Scenarios: They lose to Charlotte as they’re 0-4 against them this season, but they win against Miami due to their superior record against the Eastern Conference.
Nobody thought the Hornets had a shot to make the playoffs a few weeks ago, but the other teams on this list have slipped up in recent games, while Charlotte has been quietly solid. Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb have led the Hornets to some key victories, and they find themselves with a chance to steal the 8th seed. They’re currently 38-42 with two games left.
- 7-3 in their last 10 games, with 4 of those wins against playoff teams, and another of those against Detroit.
- Remaining Games: Road @ Cleveland on 4/9, Home vs. Orlando on 4/10. The Cavs are just 19-62, but the Magic recently stole a playoff spot and are 41-40.
- 2-1 against Cleveland this year, and 2-1 against Orlando.
- Can secure the 8th seed if: they win both games AND Detroit loses at least one game. If they lose 1, they can still steal the 8th spot if both Detroit loses both games and Miami loses at least one.
- For Tiebreaker Scenarios: They win the tiebreaker against Detroit based off their 4-0 record against them, and they also win the tiebreaker against Miami based off their superior record against teams played in the Southeast Division.
A few weeks ago, the Heat were feeling comfortable in the 8th seed. Now they’re in the 10th seed with an identical record to Charlotte, and a tough couple of games still on their schedule. It seems the loss of Josh Richardson has been more impactful than the addition of Goran Dragic, with the Heat failing to win down the stretch of the season. They’re currently 38-42 with two games to play.
- Currently on a 4-game losing streak, but they were 11-4 in the games prior to that.
- Remaining Games: Home vs. Philadelphia on 4/9, Road @ Brooklyn on 4/10. The 76ers are 50-30, while the Nets recently clinched a playoff spot at 41-40, easily giving the Heat the toughest finish of the other teams on the list.
- 0-2 against Philly this year, and 2-1 against Brooklyn.
- Can secure the 8th seed ONLY if: they win both games AND Detroit loses both games and Charlotte loses at least one.
- For Tiebreaker Scenarios: They lose the tiebreaker to both other teams on this list. Tough break, Miami.
Winner: Detroit Pistons (40-42 final record)
Unfortunately, I’m ruling Miami out as they must win both games just to have a chance to make it, and they lose all tiebreaker scenarios. Unless Philly rests a majority of their starting lineup, it’s hard to see them lose to the Heat, and even Brooklyn looks scary to Miami right now.
That said, it’s actually a terrifyingly close race between Charlotte and Detroit. The Hornets dominated the season series against the Pistons, so they’ll take the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record.
I can see the Pistons potentially losing to the Grizzlies, but it’s harder to believe they’ll also lose to the Knicks. That means the Hornets must win both their games, and the Pistons will have to lose one. Charlotte is slotted to play the Cavs and Magic, which they’re both 2-1 against.
I do think the Pistons will lose a game, but I think the Hornets also lose a game against the Magic, which gives Detroit the narrow edge. Considering the Pistons have nearly blew their chance at making the playoffs, I wish I could choose the Hornets here, but I don’t see Detroit going 0-2, nor do I see Charlotte going 2-0. We’ll see a Milwaukee-Detroit matchup in the first round.