2021 State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament

Play-In Picture: New York's loss muddles East bracket

All manner of Play-In chaos in the East seemed to erupt on Tuesday after some key outcomes in the West.

From NBA.com Staff


The playoff bracket is starting to take shape, with four set berths and two State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament teams locked in both conferences (Charlotte, Indiana, Golden State and Memphis).

But with only five days remaining in the regular season, there’s still a ton to be decided. Look no further than the East, where New York’s late overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers dropped them two spots into the standings in a three-way tie with Atlanta and Miami.

It’s not too different in the West, where the victorious Lakers moved a single game behind Dallas (which lost) and Portland (which was idle). Both those teams do hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Lakers, however, so they still need help to avoid a Play-In spot. But as Tuesday’s 11-game slate showed, (almost) anything can still happen.

If the State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament started today:

Eastern Conference

  • East 7 (Celtics) vs. East 8 (Hornets) | Winner gets No. 7 overall seed
  • East 9 (Pacers) vs. East 10 (Wizards) | Loser is eliminated
  • Loser 7/8 vs. Winner 9/10 | Winner gets No. 8 overall seed

Western Conference

  • West 7 (Lakers) vs. West 8 (Warriors) | Winner gets No. 7 overall seed
  • West 9 (Grizzlies) vs. West 10 (Spurs) | Loser is eliminated
  • Loser 7/8 vs. Winner 9/10 | Winner gets No. 8 overall seed

Playoff picture | Current standings | Play-In Tournament FAQ | NBA playoff history


4. Atlanta Hawks (🔼)

Atlanta Hawks LogoRecord: 38-31
Games Ahead (7th): 3.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. BOS, MIA; NYK hold tiebreaker
Games Back (3rd): 6.0

Last Result: 125-124 W vs. WAS
Next Opponent: vs. WAS on Wednesday


Thanks to New York’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta now controls its own destiny — for the most part. As it stands, the Hawks have the three-way tiebreaker with Miami and New York by virtue of their lead atop the Southeast Division, which they hold by virtue of yet another tiebreaker with the Heat. The Knicks do hold their head-to-head tiebreaker after sweeping the season series. The bottom line? The Hawks are sitting pretty for home-court advantage in the first round with remaining games against Washington, Orlando and Houston.


5. Miami Heat (🔼)

Miami Heat logoRecord: 38-31
Games Ahead (7th): 3.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. BOS, NYK; ATL holds tiebreaker
Games Back (3rd): 6.0
*ATL holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 129-121 W @ BOS
Next Opponent: vs. PHI on Thursday

The Heat took care of business once again, beating Boston for the second time in three days to ensure a Top 6 finish and avoid the Play-In Tournament. They have tough games coming up against Philadelphia and Milwaukee, so holding on to fifth could be tough. But even if they can’t, the Heat can take solace that they’re playing some of their best ball of the season and, as a result, have evaded the Play-In scenarios.


6. New York Knicks (🔽)

New York logoRecord: 38-31
Games Ahead (7th): 3.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. ATL; MIA holds tiebreaker
Games Back (3rd): 6.0
*ATL holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 101-99 (OT) L vs. LAL
Next Opponent: vs. SAS on Thursday

It would still take a minor miracle for Boston, trailing by three games with only three remaining for both teams, to escape the Play-In Tournament at the Knicks’ expense. (The two teams play at Madison Square Garden in Sunday’s regular-season finale, with either everything or nothing to play for.) But their OT loss to the Lakers still stung, dropping them two full spots behind Atlanta and Miami to create a three-way logjam with multiple tie-breaker scenarios.



7. Boston Celtics (–)

Boston Celtics logo Record: 35-34
Games Ahead (11th): 6.0
Games Back (6th): 3.0
*ATL, MIA hold tiebreakers

Last Result: 129-121 L vs. MIA
Next Opponent: @ CLE on Wednesday


Boston’s nightmare finish continued, with Sunday’s loss to Miami and the ensuing news that Jaylen Brown will miss the rest of the season with a torn wrist ligament followed by yet another home defeat to the Heat. The Celtics’ 7th loss in 10 games came Tuesday and all but doomed them to the Play-In. Their only escape route would come from three straight wins combined with three straight losses by the Knicks, including their head-to-head matchup in New York in Sunday’s finale.


8. Charlotte Hornets (–)

Charlotte Hornets logoRecord: 33-36
Games Ahead (11th): 4.0
Games Back (6th): 5.0

Last Result: 117-112 L vs. DEN
Next Opponent: vs. LAC on Thursday


Tempers ran hot in Charlotte, where coach James Borrego was ejected during his team’s tough home loss to Denver. While the result prevented the Hornets from gaining ground on slumping Boston, it at least clinched a spot in the Play-In Tournament and a shot at their first playoff spot since 2016. They will now battle for seeding with remaining games against the LA Clippers (at home), New York and Washington (both on the road).


9. Indiana Pacers (–)

Indiana Pacers logoRecord: 33-36
Games Ahead (11th): 4.0
Games Back (6th): 5.0

Last Result: 103-94 W vs. PHI
Next Opponent: vs. MIL on Thursday


The Pacers knew a Play-In spot was already all but assured, but they removed all doubt with their impressive victory over Philadelphia. In addition to preventing the 76ers from clinching the East’s top overall record, it also kept Indiana’s hopes of catching Charlotte and/or (with a little luck) Boston in the standings.


10. Washington Wizards (–)

Washington Wizards logoRecord: 32-37
Games Ahead (11th): 3.0
Games Back (6th): 6.0

Last Result: 125-125 L @ ATL
Next Opponent: @ ATL on Wednesday


Washington’s outlook is simple: Win one of their final three games — against Atlanta, Cleveland or Charlotte — and it is bound for the Play-In Tournament. Even with three losses, Chicago would also have to win its final three to capitalize. So the Wizards are looking pretty, pretty good.



11. Chicago Bulls ()

Chicago Bulls logoRecord: 29-40
Games Back (10th): 3.0

Last Result: 115-107 L vs. BKN
Next Opponent: vs. TOR on Thursday

Zach LaVine did what he could, pouring in 41 points to outscore Brooklyn stars Kevin Durant (21) and Kyrie Irving (13) by himself. But the Bulls’ loss, combined with Indiana’s victory over Philadelphia, left their Play-In hopes in tatters. Unable to catch either the Hornets or the Pacers, the Bulls’ only route now is to sweep their final three games combined with three straight losses by Washington.




5. Portland Trail Blazers (🔼)

Portland Trail Blazers logoRecord: 40-29
Games Ahead (7th): 1.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL
Games Back (4th): 5.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. DAL

Last Result: 140-129 W vs. HOU
Next Opponent: @ UTA on Wednesday

It’s not a bad night when you gain ground in the standings without having to do anything. Such was the case for Portland, which jumped Dallas into fifth courtesy of its mauling in Memphis. That gives the Trail Blazers pole position on fifth with the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Mavericks, but their finishing schedule — Utah, Phoenix and Denver — is daunting.


6. Dallas Mavericks (🔽)

Dallas Mavericks logoRecord: 40-29
Games Ahead (7th): 1.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL
Games Back (5th): —
*POR holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 133-104 L @ MEM
Next Opponent: vs. NOP on Wednesday

Life comes at you fast in the NBA. The Mavericks had been cruising heading into Tuesday’s game with Memphis, winning 10 of 12 for their best sustained stretch of the season. Enter the Grizzlies, who promptly demolished them by 29 points. Even with the rout, the Mavs are still in solid shape to finish no worse than sixth with a one-game lead over the Lakers and the head-to-head tiebreaker with only three games left for both.



7. Los Angeles Lakers (–)

Los Angeles Lakers logoRecord: 39-30
Games Ahead (11th): 8.0
Games Back (6th): 1.0
*POR, DAL hold tiebreakers

Last Result: 101-99 (OT) W vs. NYK
Next Opponent: vs. HOU on Wednesday

It wasn’t pretty, but the Lakers’ 1990s-style overtime victory against the Knicks kept their slim hopes of surpassing Portland and/or Dallas for a secure playoff spot alive. And with LeBron James reportedly set to return tonight against lowly Houston, those hopes could take a significant boost. But even if they sweep their last three games — the Lakers also face Indiana and New Orleans — they’ll still need help to move up.


8. Golden State Warriors ()

Golden State Warriors logoRecord: 37-33
Games Ahead (11th): 5.5
Games Back (6th): 3.5

Last Result: 122-116 W vs. PHO
Next Opponent: vs. NOP on Friday


Two nights, two victories over the best teams in the West. The Warriors followed up Monday’s conquest of No. 1 Utah by rallying from 16 down to outlast No. 2 Phoenix down the stretch behind 38 points (!!!) from Andrew Wiggins. Even with their respective wins, the Warriors remain on what appears to be a collision course with the Lakers for a mouthwatering Play-In matchup.


9. Memphis Grizzlies ()

Memphis Grizzlies logoRecord: 36-33
Games Ahead (11th): 5.0
Games Back (6th): 4.0

Last Result: 133-104 W vs. DAL
Next Opponent: vs. SAC on Thursday


Led by Ja Morant’s all-around excellence, the Grizzlies clinched a Play-In berth in style, routing Dallas by 29 for arguably their most impressive performance of the season. Barring a collapse by the Lakers, they’ll now grapple with Golden State and most likely San Antonio for the eighth spot.


10. San Antonio Spurs (–)

San Antionio Spurs logoRecord: 33-35
Games Ahead (11th): 2.5
*SAS holds tiebreaker
Games Back (6th): 6.5

Last Result: 146-125 W vs. MIL
Next Opponent: @ BKN on Wednesday


Nothing changed for the idle Spurs, who have a stranglehold on the final Play-In spot with a 2.5-game lead on New Orleans (also idle) and four and three games to go, respectively. The only way they can miss out is if they lose all of those four games, while the Pelicans win all three of theirs. We have no idea what the odds of that are, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize they aren’t very good.



11. New Orleans Pelicans (–)

New Orleans Pelicans logoRecord: 31-38
Games Back (10th): 3.0
*SAS holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 115-110 L @ MEM
Next Opponent: @ DAL on Wednesday


The Pelicans’ situation remains dire. See above.


12. Sacramento Kings (–)

Sacramento Kings logoRecord: 31-38
Games Back (10th): 3.0

Last Result: 122-106 W vs. OKC
Next Opponent: @ MEM on Thursday


The Kings took care of the only thing they could control Tuesday by spanking Oklahoma City. They’re still on the brink, with one loss or one San Antonio win dashing their Play-In hopes for good.