NBA playoff picture: Warriors tighten grip on top-four seed; red-hot Hawks jump to No. 8; Nets fall to No. 10

The Golden State Warriors overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat the Utah Jazz on Saturday, and in doing so they clinched a playoff spot. The Warriors are currently the West’s No. 3 seed, one game up on No. 4 Dallas. 

In the East, the Atlanta Hawks scored a huge win over the Brooklyn Nets. With the win, Atlanta jumps to the No. 8 seed while the Nets fall to No. 10. The Nets have sealed their play-in fate, meaning they mathematically cannot rise into the top six and nor can they fall out of the top 10. 

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 Sunday, April 3.

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

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix has clinched the No. 1 overall seed. 

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

2. Memphis Grizzlies 

The Grizzlies have clinched the No. 2 seed. 

3. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors picked up a huge victory over the Jazz on Saturday to remain one game up on No. 4 Dallas with four to play. With the win, the Warriors now lead the No. 5 Jazz by three games with four to play and the tiebreaker secured, so it’s almost a done deal that Utah won’t pass Golden State. The only real threat to removing the Warriors from the top four is the No. 6 Nuggets, who trail the Warriors by two games with the tiebreaker in hand. The Warriors have clinched a playoff spot. 

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

4. Dallas Mavericks 

The Mavericks inexplicably lost to the Wizards by 32 points on Friday and remain one game back of the No. 3 Warriors with four to play. The Mavericks lead the No. 5 Jazz and No. 6 Nuggets by two games. The Mavericks have clinched a playoff spot. 

  • Projected seed: 4

  • Current first-round matchup: Jazz

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Dallas has clinched with 3-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Jazz: Utah currently owns as division leader (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Dallas has clinched via conference record (season series tied 2-2)

5. Utah Jazz 

The Jazz blew another huge lead, this time a 21-pointer to the Warriors on Saturday. Utah is now an effective four games back of Golden State with four to play. The Jazz trail the No. 4 Mavericks by two games and are tied with the No. 6 Nuggets. Utah could mathematically fall into the play-in still, as it leads the No. 7 Timberwolves by just two games with four to play, though the Jazz do own the tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 5
  • Current first-round matchup: Mavericks

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Warriors have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Mavericks: Utah currently owns as division leader (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 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

6. Denver Nuggets 

The Nuggets are tied with the No. 5 Jazz after Utah’s loss to Golden State on Saturday (Utah has sealed tiebreaker). The Nuggets are an effective three games back of the No. 4 Mavericks. Most importantly, the Nuggets want to stay out of the play-in; they leads the No. 7 Timberwolves by two games with four to play and Minnesota has the tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 6

  • Current play-in matchup: Warriors
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Warriors: Nuggets have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Mavericks: Dallas has clinched with 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Jazz: Utah has clinched with 4-0 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Timberwolves: Timberwolves have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves kept a glimmer of hope alive for a top six-seed with a win over the Nuggets on Friday. Minnesota trails the No. 6  Nuggets and No. 5 Jazz by two games with four to play (tiebreaker info below). 

  • Projected seed: 7

  • Current play-in matchup: Clippers

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Jazz: Utah has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Nuggets: Timberwolves have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage

8. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have sealed a spot in the play-in tourney; they can’t get into the top six and they can’t fall out of the top 10. They’re almost assured of ending at No. 8 with a three-game lead on the Pelicans in the loss column with four 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 got a huge win over the Lakers on Friday is two games up on the No. 10 Spurs. New Orleans is three games up on the Lakers with five to play and the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Projected seed: 9

  • Current play-in matchup: Spurs

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Spurs: San Antonio has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 11 Lakers: Pelicans have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage

10. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are one game up on the Lakers with the tiebreaker secured. The Spurs trail the No. 9 Pelicans by two games with five to play and the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Projected seed: 10

  • Current play-in matchup: Pelicans
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Pelicans: San Antonio has clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 11 Lakers: San Antonio has clinched tiebreaker via conference record

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

  • Los Angeles Lakers: Trail No. 10 San Antonio by one in loss column with five to play (Spurs own tiebreaker). 

trae-hawks.jpg

Trae Young and the surging Hawks have moved up to eighth in the East standings.
Getty Images

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Miami Heat

The Heat lead the No. 2 Bucks by one in the loss column with the tiebreaker currently in their favor via conference record. The Heat have a two-loss lead over the No. 3 Celtics and No. 4 Sixers with four games to play. The Heat have clinched a playoff spot, and a win over Toronto on Sunday would secure a top-four seed. 

  • 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 Boston: Celtics have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Philadelphia: Heat currently own as division leader (season series tied 2-2)

  • Tiebreakers over No. 5 Toronto: Raptors lead season series 2-1 with head-to-head remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Heat have clinched via 3-0 head-to-head advantage with one matchup remaining

2. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks trail the No. 1 Heat by one in the loss column (lead is effectively two at the moment for Miami as it has the tiebreaker via conference record, but that could change). The Bucks lead the No. 3 Celtics and No. 4 Sixers by one in the loss column; they still have one game vs. Boston left in a game that could seal the tiebreaker for Boston. Milwaukee has clinched a playoff spot. 

  • Projected seed: 2

  • Current first-round matchup: Cavs vs. Hawks play-in winner

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 1 Miami: Miami currently owns via conference record (season series 2-2, both teams leading division)

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Boston: Bucks trail season series 2-1 with one game remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Philadelphia: Bucks have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Chicago: Bucks lead season series 2-0 with two games remaining

3. Boston Celtics

The Celtics are tied in the loss column with the No. 4 Sixers. They are one back of No. 2 Milwaukee and two back of No. 1 Miami. Boston has one more game vs. Milwaukee. Boston leads No. 5 Toronto by two games and No. 6 Chicago by three with five to go. The Celtics have clinched a playoff spot. 

  • 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. 4 Philadelphia: Celtics currently own with better Atlantic division record (head-to-head tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Toronto: Boston currently owns as Atlantic division leader
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Chicago: Season series tied 1-1 with one game remaining

4. Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are tied in the loss column with the No. 3 Celtics and are one back of the No. 2 Bucks. The Sixers trail the No. 1 Heat by two in the loss column. The Sixers are two up on the No. 5 Raptors with one head-to-head matchup remaining, which could secure the tiebreaker for Toronto. 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: Raptors

  • 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. 3 Boston: Boston currently owns with better Atlantic division record (head-to-head tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Toronto: Raptors lead season series 2-1 with one head-to-head remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Chicago: Sixers have clinched via 4-0 head-to-head advantage

5. Toronto Raptors  

The Raptors are three games ahead of the No. 7 Cavs with five to play, so a top-six seed feels like a good bet. The Raptors are on up on the No. 6 Bulls (Chicago has clinched the tiebreaker). The Raptors are two back of No. 4 Philadelphia with one head-to-head matchup remaining (April 7), which could seal the tiebreaker for Toronto. SportsLine projections have the Raptors finishing as the No. 5 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 5

  • Current play-in matchup: 76ers

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 3 Boston: Celtics currently own as Atlantic division leader
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 4 Philadelphia: Raptors lead season series 2-1 with one head-to-head remaining
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 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

6. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are one back of No. 5 Toronto and two up on No. 7 Cleveland with four games to play. The Bulls own the tiebreaker over the Cavs, so a top-six seed feels pretty safe. The Bulls trails No. 4 Philadelphia and No, 3 Boston by three games with one game against the Celtics remaining (April 6). SportsLine projections have Chicago finishing as the No. 6 seed. 

  • 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. 5 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

CURRENT PLAY-IN TEAMS

7. Cleveland Cavaliers 

The Cavaliers are two games back of the No. 6 Bulls (Chicago has the tiebreaker). The Cavs have a two-game lead over the No. 8 Hawks with four to play (Atlanta owns tiebreaker). 

  • Projected seed: 7

  • Current first-round matchup: Hawks
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 5 Toronto: Cavs have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 6 Chicago: Bulls have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Atlanta: Hawks have clinched via 3-1 head-to-head advantage
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Charlotte: Cleveland currently own via conference record (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Brooklyn: Nets lead season series 2-1 with one matchup remaining

8. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks defeated the Nets on Saturday to take claim on the No. 8 seed, one game up on both No. 9 Charlotte and No. 10 Brooklyn with four to play. The Hawks trails the No. 7 Cavs by two with the tiebreaker secured. SportsLine projection still have the Hawks falling below Brooklyn and ending up in the No. 9 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 9

  • Current play-in matchup: Cavs

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Brooklyn: Nets have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage with one game remaining

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 9 Charlotte: Charlotte currently owns via conference win percentage

9. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are tied with the No. 10 Nets (Charlotte had secured tiebreaker) and trail the No. 8 Hawks by one with four to play. The Hornets can still mathematically catch the Cavs, who they trail by two games, though Cleveland currently owns the tiebreaker. The Hornets are locked into the play-in, meaning they can’t rise above No. 7 and they can’t fall below No. 10. SportsLine projections have Charlotte ending up as the No. 10 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 10

  • Current play-in matchup: Nets

  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 7 Cleveland: Cavs currently own via conference record (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 8 Atlanta: Hornets currently own via conference record (season series tied 2-2)
  • Tiebreaker vs. No. 10 Brooklyn: Hornets have clinched via 2-1 head-to-head advantage

10. Brooklyn Nets 

The Nets fell to Atlanta on Saturday and are now the 10th seed in the East, one game back of Atlanta and tied with No. 9 Charlotte. The Nets are locked into the play-in, meaning they can’t rise above No. 7 and they can’t fall below No. 10. SportsLine projections have Brooklyn ending up as the No. 8 seed. 

  • Projected seed: 8

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

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