The NBA playoff picture has only gotten more complicated over the past week or two, but the Brooklyn Nets are the surging team that looks poised to clinch a spot.
The Eastern Conference race still includes 11 teams but Brooklyn moved into the eighth spot after a crucial win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The Pacers and Charlotte Hornets are now two losses behind Brooklyn.
Thanks to Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the Nets could potentially move up as far as sixth place if they keep winning–and a date with the Knicks on Wednesday should help immensely.
The Miami Heat are now just half-a-game ahead of Brooklyn in the seventh spot after losing to the San Antonio Spurs, while the freefalling Milwaukee Bucks are only 2.5 games ahead of the Nets.
While the Pacers and Hornets are still in the race, some separation is happening and ninth place Boston has the edge right now. The Celtics have the tiebreaker over the Nets and are just a half-a-game behind them, though the Nets have gone 8-2 in their last 10 while the Boston has only managed 5-5. The Heat have gone 5-5 and the Bucks have gone 2-8. But we predict the Bucks, Heat, and Nets will make the playoffs, in that order.
Over in the West, the race has tightened to nine teams and the New Orleans Pelicans will need the Oklahoma City Thunder to lose several more games to even have a shot at eighth place. If OKC instead keeps winning, especially over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, then the Thunder have a chance of moving up to seventh place, which would greatly increase their chances of advancing past the first round.
In the middle of the pack, the Spurs are set to move up to fifth place while San Antonio could easily gain homecourt advantage by the time the playoffs start. The Spurs are tied with the Nets as the second-hottest teams in the league (behind the red hot Golden State Warriors), going 8-2 in their last 10. The Los Angeles Clippers have been almost as good but fell to the Warriors and are now just half a game ahead of the Spurs, and tied with the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers have basically clinched their division, meaning they can fall no lower than the fourth seed. But if the fifth seed has a better record, then the Blazers won’t get homecourt advantage.