2021 State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament

Play-In Picture: Key results set up photo finish

The top 10 in the West are set, while three-team races in the middle of both conferences will go down to the wire.

From NBA.com Staff

The State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament picture after the games of May 13.

Here’s what we know with 72 hours before the 2020-21 regular season ends: the Celtics are seventh, and the Spurs are 10th.

That’s it. How?

Nearly everything that could have clarified the Play-In Picture on Thursday wound up muddying the waters even more.

Washington needed Chicago to lose to officially clinch a Play-In spot and see the Bulls drop out of the race. Chicago won.

Philadelphia could have clinched the best record in the East. They lost to a resilient Miami Heat team, an outcome that also prevented Atlanta’s win over Orlando from being enough to clinch the Southeast Division.

Phoenix could have locked up no worse than second place with a win and a Clippers loss, but LA took care of business against the Hornets.

And because of all those outcomes, all the mini-races at the top, middle, and bottom of the standings in both conferences will come down to the wire.

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


EASTERN CONFERENCE

4. Atlanta Hawks (–)

Atlanta Hawks LogoRecord: 40-31
Games Ahead (5th): 0.5
*Holds tiebreaker vs. MIA; NYK hold tiebreaker

Last Result: 116-93 W vs. ORL
Next Opponent: vs. HOU on Sunday

The Hawks are doing everything they can to keep the Knicks and Heat at bay. They can assure themselves of no worse than fifth by winning their season finale Sunday vs. the rebuilding Rockets. Be assured they’ll be keeping on eye on Miami and New York until then, as both those teams have an additional game to play.

 

5. Miami Heat ()

Miami Heat logoRecord: 39-31
Games Ahead (6th): —
*Holds tiebreaker vs. NYK
Games Back (4th): 0.5
*ATL holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 106-94 W vs. PHI
Next Opponent: @ MIL on Saturday

Miami has the hardest road remaining to avoid a No. 3 vs. No. 6 first-round matchup with Milwaukee, but they took a huge step toward doing that with a vintage win over the 76ers. Miami’s toughness was humorously personified by Udonis Haslem’s first appearance of the season … which lasted all of three minutes before he was ejected for an altercation with Dwight Howard. The Heat’s road is still rocky — they have the Bucks on Saturday and Atlanta holds the head-to-head tiebreaker — but they’re still right in the mix.

 

6. New York Knicks ()

New York logoRecord: 39-31
Games Back (5th): —
*Holds tiebreaker vs. ATL; MIA holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 102-93 W vs. SAS
Next Opponent: vs. CHA on Saturday

The Knicks needed a second-half comeback against a feisty Spurs team to stay in the three-team race for fourth. They got a much-needed bounce-back game from RJ Barrett, who saw his 12-game streak of double-figure scoring snapped on Tuesday. His 24 points were huge on Thursday, especially with New York holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hawks.


 

7. Boston Celtics (–)

Boston Celtics logo Record: 35-35
Games Ahead (8th): 2.0

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

The Celtics’ fate is sealed after Thursday’s other outcomes. Boston is fixed into seventh place, where they’ll face either Hornets or Pacers depending on how the rest of the season plays out. Boston won its season series with both teams 2-1 — all with Jaylen Brown, who is now out for the season following wrist surgery.

 

8. Charlotte Hornets (–)

Charlotte Hornets logoRecord: 33-37
Games Ahead (9th): —
*Holds tiebreaker vs. IND, WAS
Games Back (7th): 2.0
*BOS holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 113-90 L vs. LAC
Next Opponent: @ NYK on Saturday

Charlotte could never get going against an elite Clippers defense that had its own incentive to play well. They’ll get more of the same energy from New York and Washington (both on the road), but the Hornets will be desperate in their own right to avoid the single elimination path of ninth place.

 

9. Indiana Pacers (–)

Indiana Pacers logoRecord: 33-37
Games Ahead (10th): 1.0
*WAS holds tiebreaker
Games Back (8th): —
*CHA holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 142-133 L vs. MIL
Next Opponent: vs. LAL on Saturday

Indiana lost a huge chance to gain ground on the faltering Hornets. Normally 133 points and 21 makes from 3-point range would be enough, but the Bucks were even more proficient on Thursday. Now they have just two chances left to jump ahead of Charlotte, which holds the tiebreaker against the Pacers.

 

10. Washington Wizards (–)

Washington Wizards logoRecord: 32-38
Games Ahead (11th): 2.0
Games Back (8th): 1.0
*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: 30-40
Games Back (10th): 2.0

Last Result: 114-102 L vs. Raptors
Next Opponent: @ BKN on Saturday

The Bulls’ only route into the Play-In Tournament is to sweep their final two games … and hope Washington’s slide tumbles into a season-ending snowball. Regardless, Chicago has won four of its last five, offering glimmers of hope for the future.


WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

5. Dallas Mavericks (🔼)

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

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

Portland’s Thursday-night loss to Phoenix helped the Mavericks most of all. Only an absolute collapse — losing both its final games and the Lakers winning their final two — would see Dallas slip into seventh and the Play-In Tournament. Playing the already-eliminated Raptors on Friday makes that outcome unlikely, but not impossible.

 

6. Portland Trail Blazers (🔽)

Portland Trail Blazers logoRecord: 41-30
Games Ahead (7th): 0.5
*Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL
Games Back (5th): 0.5
*Holds tiebreaker vs. DAL

Last Result: 118-117 L @ PHX
Next Opponent: vs. DEN on Sunday

The Blazers very nearly clinched a top-six spot, only to see a pair of Devin Booker free throws put that goal in a precarious position. Portland must now win its season finale against Denver to guarantee remaining above the Play-In. A loss would put their fate in the hands of the Mavericks and Lakers.


 

7. Los Angeles Lakers (–)

Los Angeles Lakers logoRecord: 40-30
Games Ahead (11th): 9.0
Games Back (6th): 0.5
*POR, DAL hold tiebreakers

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

Portland’s defeat to Phoenix gives life to the Lakers’ chances of avoiding the Play-In and even allows a single scenario in which L.A. leap-frogs to fifth (if the Lakers win out and the Mavericks and Blazers go a combined 0-3). Anything that sees the Lakers finish sixth or higher requires them to win both their final games and get help from Dallas or Portland. The first step toward that begins Saturday against a Pacers team desperate to advance from ninth to eighth.

 

8. Golden State Warriors ()

Golden State Warriors logoRecord: 37-33
Games Ahead (9th): —
*Hold tiebreaker vs. MEM
Games Back (7th): 3.0

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

Golden State’s plan got a lot simpler after Memphis’ come-from-behind win over the Kings. Their season finale against the Grizzlies team currently tied with them will decide the head-to-head tiebreaker — and therefore eighth place. Whoever wins finishes eighth, while the loser slides to ninth.

 

9. Memphis Grizzlies ()

Memphis Grizzlies logoRecord: 37-33
Games Ahead (10th): 4.0
Games Back (8th): —
*GSW holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 116-110 W vs. SAC
Next Opponent: vs. SAC on Friday

Memphis’ dramatic comeback win over the Kings sets up a winner-takes-eighth season finale with the Warriors on Sunday — regardless of what happens in their respective next matchups. That’s possible because that Sunday clash will decide the tiebreaker between the Grizzlies and Warriors. The stakes are clear — win, and get two Play-In shots at making the final eight. Lose, and it’s a single-elimination affair.

 

10. San Antonio Spurs (–)

San Antionio Spurs logoRecord: 33-37
Games Ahead (11th): 2.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. SAC
Games Back (9th): 4.0

Last Result: 102-98 L @ NYK
Next Opponent: vs. PHX on Saturday

The Spurs led by as many as 17 in the second half before suffering what could have been a nail-biting loss to the Knicks. Instead, they can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to the Kings’ own defeat to the Grizzlies. San Antonio is now locked in at 10th place, rendering their last two games against Phoenix relatively meaningless. The Spurs will face the loser of the Sunday’s Grizzlies-Warriors finale in a win-or-go-home Play-In battle.


 

11. Sacramento Kings (–)

Sacramento Kings logoRecord: 31-39
Games Back (10th): 2.0
*SAS holds tiebreaker

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

For a brief moment, the stars appeared to be aligning for the postseason-starved Kings. San Antonio had lost, and the Kings held a late eight-point lead over the Grizzlies. Win that game, and Sacramento had a very real shot at the Spurs losing their final two games to Phoenix and maybe (if they themselves won out) sneak into the Play-In. Instead, the Kings will miss the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season, the longest active postseason drought in the league, and tied with the Clippers (1977-91) for longest in NBA history.

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