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How Monday night's games affected 2018 NBA playoff chase

From Staff

The playoff picture heading into Monday night was as murky as ever. Six teams in the Western Conference were fighting for five playoff spots, while the order of seeds No. 3-8 was still undecided. The latter also held true in the Eastern Conference.

Some of the dust finally settled following Monday’s slate of games, most of which carried postseason ramifications. Here’s the ripple effect of their outcomes:

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder made their fans sweat early, but ultimately erased an 18-point deficit to beat Miami 115-93. The victory punched OKC’s postseason ticket while also preserving their hopes of earning home-court advantage in the first round.
  • The Miami Heat, meanwhile, slid back into seventh place in the East, just a half-game ahead of the eighth-place Washington Wizards. Also at stake between Miami and Washington: the Southeast Division title. The Heat are already in the playoffs; the only question is where and against whom.
  • A 123-109 win against the Knicks in New York not only clinched the Cleveland Cavaliers a fourth consecutive Central Division crown, it also assured the Cavaliers of home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Whether they will be the third or fourth-seeded team remains to be seen, as they still trail Philadelphia by half a game in the standings. If the Cavs and Sixers wind up tied, Cleveland would win the tiebreaker due to 1. splitting the season series and 2. having won their division.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks are already playoff-bound, but where they will ultimately land is still unknown. The Bucks inched up the Eastern Conference ladder by beating Orlando 102-86. They’re now in sixth place with a full game’s lead on Miami, though they have no hopes of catching 48-win Indiana for fifth. If they wind up tied with the Heat, Miami would win the tiebreaker thanks to sweeping the season series with Milwaukee.
  • Their streak of 50-win seasons may be over, but the San Antonio Spurs remain a playoff mainstay after their 98-85 victory over the Kings. This will mark San Antonio’s 21st consecutive postseason, but where they wind up and who they play are questions that may not be answered until the final night of the season.
  • As the only team in danger of being eliminated from playoff contention on Monday night, the Denver Nuggets had the most to lose. Instead, the Nuggets ensured Game No. 82 will count after holding off Portland 88-82. It’s pretty simple: whoever wins the Nuggets-Timberwolves game on Wednesday night (8 ET, NBA League Pass) is in, while the loser will watch the playoffs from home.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t been in the postseason since 2004 and they were no doubt frustrated over Monday’s chain of events. They needed three things to happen: to beat Memphis, for San Antonio to win and for Denver to lose. The first two steps — including the Timberwolves’ 113-94 rout of the Grizzlies — occurred. The third did not. Now, Minnesota’s hopes of snapping the league’s longest playoff drought come down to defending their homecourt against the Nuggets on Wednesday.
  • Anthony Davis and Co. are back in the playoffs. The former All-NBA big man successfully completed the New Orleans Pelicans’ admirable stand following a season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins by leading New Orleans past the Clippers, 113-100. Davis will play beyond the regular season for the first time since 2015, when he was 21 years old. New Orleans could still finish as high as fourth in the West, but they could also fall as low as eighth. Stay tuned.