What We Learned: Saturday's impact on playoff picture
With the 2017 Playoffs a week away, an eight-game night in the NBA on Saturday was bound to produce clinches, eliminations and matchup locks.
One particular outcome ensured a first-round battle between the No. 3 seed Houston Rockets and No. 6 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference, a matchup that will consist of the league’s top MVP candidates in James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Here’s what happened on Saturday as four days remain in the regular season:
The L.A. Clippers’ win over the San Antonio Spurs secured a first-round pairing with the Utah Jazz in the West. The two teams will face off in the 4-5 matchup, though home court has yet to be decided.
L.A.’s win over San Antonio locked Oklahoma City into the No. 6 seed. Houston sealed the No. 3 slot days ago, which means a first-round showdown between the league’s top MVP candidates is officially in play.
After beating the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers extended their lead over the Denver Nuggets for the eighth spot in the West to 1.5 games. A Nuggets loss or Blazers win over the next few days secures Portland the West’s final playoff seed.
The Atlanta Hawks clinched their 10th straight playoff berth after the Chicago Bulls lost to the Brooklyn Nets. Atlanta currently controls its own destiny in the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed.
The Milwaukee Bucks earned a playoff spot with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Coach Jason Kidd’s team, making their second postseason appearance in three seasons, is currently a half game back of the East’s fifth slot.
The Indiana Pacers moved into sole possession of the East’s No. 7 seed with a win over the Orlando Magic and a Bulls loss to the Nets.
Chicago’s loss to Brooklyn brought the Bulls to 39-41. They currently remain in the East’s 8th seed and own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Miami Heat, who sit in the ninth slot with the same record.
The Heat kept their playoff hopes alive with a tight victory over the Washington Wizards on the road.
The Detroit Pistons have been eliminated from playoff contention following the Pacers’ win over the Magic.
The Charlotte Hornets have been eliminated from playoff contention following a loss to the Boston Celtics.
The playoffs begin on April 15. Keep track of how the bracket is shaping up here.