2021 State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament

Play-In Picture: Hawks, Knicks clinch as East seedings solidify

The East seedings begin to tumble into locked position, and another challenger falls out West.

From NBA.com Staff

The State Farm Play-In Tournament picture after the games of May 12.

After a hard-fought overtime loss to the Lakers, it’s likely this overachieving Knicks group wouldn’t have minded having a chance to earn their playoff clincher on the court. And yet, it’s no time to assume they view the achievements are over — they joined the Hawks in clinching on Wednesday, and can still wend their way into the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup, rather than finding themselves opposite likely No. 3 seed Milwaukee.

The entire East actually shook out, with the six playoff spots accounted for and the four State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament places all but assured. (The Wizards are but one win away from clinching the final slot.)

Out West, the Mavericks dealt a death blow to the Pelicans, knocking them out of the race and leaving Sacramento as the lone challenger to San Antonio for the final Play-In place. The Trail Blazers and Lakers also won, leaving that No. 5-6-7 mashup in stasis heading into the back end of this final week.

Several teams are in action Thursday, and as the games played converge, the intrigue only increases.

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: 39-31
Games Ahead (7th): 4.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. BOS, MIA; NYK hold tiebreaker
Games Back (3rd): 5.5

Last Result: 120-116 W vs. WAS
Next Opponent: vs. ORL on Thursday


The Hawks clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2017 with a fourth-quarter rally against the Wizards, who were looking to not only secure their place in the Play-In, but perhaps elevate to eighth. Atlanta edges ahead of the Heat, and holding the tiebreaker only further pads the half-game margin, what with the lowly Magic and Rockets remaining on the docket.


5. Miami Heat ()

Miami Heat logoRecord: 38-31
Games Ahead (7th): 3.5
*Holds tiebreaker vs. NYK; ATL holds tiebreaker
Games Back (4th): 0.5
*ATL holds tiebreaker

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

The Heat, already set to avoid the Play-In Tournament, now have (official) company in the Hawks and Heat. Philadelphia and Milwaukee await, and a strong finish will determine whether they’re playing No. 4-5 or potential fodder for the No. 3 Bucks in the opening round. That might not be as imposing for Miami after last season’s Finals run, which ran right through Milwaukee in the bubble’s conference semifinals.


6. New York Knicks ()

New York logoRecord: 38-31
Games Back (5th): —
*Holds tiebreaker vs. ATL; MIA holds tiebreaker

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

The Knicks have clinched! Over in Cleveland, the Celtics took an L that guaranteed the Knicks a top-6 finish in the East. Tuesday’s OT loss to the Lakers created a three-way logjam with multiple tie-breaker scenarios, but the Knicks still could rise up to 4th with the right combination of outcomes. Charlotte and Boston will be playing for position, so they could prove a feisty pair.



7. Boston Celtics (–)

Boston Celtics logo Record: 35-35
Games Ahead (8th): 1.5

Last Result: 102-94 L @ CLE
Next Opponent: @ MIN on Saturday


Another night, another loss for the Celtics, who have now dropped eight of 10 games and will need at least one Play-In Tournament victory to even appear in this season’s playoffs. They’ve got a weekend back-to-back against the Timberwolves and Knicks to close out, and will need to win at least one to hold off the Hornets.


8. Charlotte Hornets (–)

Charlotte Hornets logoRecord: 33-36
Games Ahead (9th): —
*Holds tiebreaker vs. IND, WAS
Games Back (7th): 1.5
*BOS holds tiebreaker

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


The Hornets couldn’t quite gain ground Tuesday, but clinched a spot in the Play-In Tournament and a shot at their first playoff spot since 2016. With remaining games against the LA Clippers (at home), New York and Washington (both on the road) the Hornets still have a chance to both earn homecourt as the No. 7 seed or face a two-game road climb if all goes South. That finale at Washington suddenly looms large.


9. Indiana Pacers (–)

Indiana Pacers logoRecord: 33-36
Games Ahead (10th): 1.5
*WAS holds tiebreaker
Games Back (8th): —
*CHA holds tiebreaker

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


The Pacers clinched a Play-In spot with Tuesday’s impressive victory over Philadelphia. That crucial No. 7-8 pairing remains within reach, and the Wizards’ (second straight) loss to Atlanta has left a little cushion for home court in the event they don’t get there.


10. Washington Wizards (–)

Washington Wizards logoRecord: 32-38
Games Ahead (11th): 2.5
Games Back (9th): 1.5
*Holds tiebreaker vs. IND; CHA holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 120-116 L @ ATL
Next Opponent: vs. CLE on Friday


The Wizards needed only to win once in their final three games — against Atlanta, Cleveland or Charlotte — to secure a spot in the Play-In Tournament. After taking an L at the hands of the Hawks, the door remains open for the Bulls to charge through, even as a potential climb to 8th place remains possible.



11. Chicago Bulls ()

Chicago Bulls logoRecord: 29-40
Games Back (10th): 2.5

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

The Bulls’ only route into the Play-In Tournament is to sweep their final three games … and hope Washington’s slide tumbles into a season-ending snowball. Back-to-back losses to Atlanta helped, but the Wizards have two bites at a one-win apple.




5. Portland Trail Blazers ()

Portland Trail Blazers logoRecord: 41-29
Games Ahead (7th): 1.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL
Games Back (4th): 5.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. DAL

Last Result: 105-98 W @ UTA
Next Opponent: @ PHX on Thursday

The Blazers did what they had to do against Utah, getting the usual backcourt fireworks and a fun throwback game from Carmelo Anthony (18 points, 7-for-13 shooting). But so did the Mavericks and the Lakers. Fifth remains theirs … for now, as games against Phoenix and Denver are on deck.


6. Dallas Mavericks (–)

Dallas Mavericks logoRecord: 41-29
Games Ahead (7th): 1.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL
Games Back (5th): —
*POR holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 125-107 W vs. NOP
Next Opponent: vs. TOR on Friday

The Mavericks, demolished by 29 points in a Tuesday loss to Memphis, turned around to KO the Pelicans right out of the postseason mix. The Lakers hung on against the Rockets to keep the pressure on, though the Mavs retain a one-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker with only two games left for each squad.



7. Los Angeles Lakers (–)

Los Angeles Lakers logoRecord: 40-30
Games Ahead (11th): 8.0
Games Back (6th): 1.0
*POR, DAL hold tiebreakers

Last Result: 124-122 W vs. HOU
Next Opponent: @ IND on Saturday

Another not pretty one, but they knocked off the Rockets without LeBron James or Anthony Davis. Winning with defense, they could well be bolstered by LeBron’s return as they challenge offense-starved Indiana and a New Orleans team that now has nothing to play for. They’ll need help, but stand to help themselves.


8. Golden State Warriors ()

Golden State Warriors logoRecord: 37-33
Games Ahead (11th): 5.5
Games Back (6th): 4.0

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


After back-to-back victories over the best teams in the West, the Warriors now face the Pelicans — after their elimination from the Play-In race. Stay ahead of Memphis, and it’s a collision course with the Lakers to see who goes on to a likely matchup with Phoenix.


9. Memphis Grizzlies ()

Memphis Grizzlies logoRecord: 36-33
Games Ahead (11th): 5.0
Games Back (6th): 4.5

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


The Grizzlies clinched a Play-In berth against the Mavericks on Tuesday, and now sights are set on 8th, where a likely matchup with the Lakers would provide the first of two chances to make it out of the Play-In and into the postseason.


10. San Antonio Spurs (–)

San Antionio Spurs logoRecord: 33-36
Games Ahead (11th): 2.0
*SAS holds tiebreaker
Games Back (6th): 7.5

Last Result: 128-116 L @ BKN
Next Opponent: @ NYK on Thursday


The Spurs traveled to the Big Apple and caught a bad one with James Harden’s return. Even off the bench, it sparked the Nets to a nearly wire-to-wire win, leaving San Antonio likely relegated to 10th and within range of … Sacramento! New Orleans is out, so one challenger down.



11. Sacramento Kings (🔼)

Sacramento Kings logoRecord: 31-38
Games Back (10th): 2.0

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


On the strength of … not playing as the Spurs lost, the Kings skipped past the Pelicans, the lone challenger for a Play-In place out West. Yet they’re still on the brink, just one loss or San Antonio win from erasure.

12. New Orleans Pelicans (🔽)

New Orleans Pelicans logoRecord: 31-39
Games Back (10th): 2.5
*SAS holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 125-107 L @ DAL
Next Opponent: @ DAL on Wednesday


That loss to the Mavericks was all she wrote, kids. Just wait ’til next year.