Playoff Implications on NBA Regular Season Finale

LeBron and the Lakers will be watching the scores today as their playoff spot will be determined by games they aren't playing in.

Meg Oliphant/CBS Sports

After an exciting season for the NBA and its fans, the playoffs are finally around the corner.

This season has been unique with Covid-19 restrictions, schedule changes, and a record setting number of injuries. Today (May 16) is the last day of the regular season, and the outcome of today's games have serious playoff implications.

After a trial run in last year's bubble, the play-in tournament will be sticking around. The play-in tournament is a new system in place for the NBA this year, it comes with controversy, but it definitely adds a lot more excitement for the end of the regular season. The teams involved in this tournament are the seventh through tenth seeds in each conference.

In the tournament's first two games, the seventh seed will be playing the eighth seed, and the ninth seed will be playing the tenth seed. The winner of the seven-eight game secures the seven seed. The eighth/final seed will be played for by the loser of the seven-eight game, and the winner of the ninth-tenth seed.

Starting in the Western Conference, sitting at the 8th seed is the Golden State Warriors, who are riding the red hot hand of Stephen Curry, who will finish off the season as the league scoring leader.

The 9th seed is the Memphis Grizzlies, led by Ja Morant but accompanied by great depth with young players possessing huge potential. The Grizzlies and Warriors face-off tomorrow for that eighth seed. Betting odds have the Warriors winning at 4.5 point favorites at -110, meaning that if you bet $100, you will win $90.91. Continuing in the Western Conference.

Moving on to the seventh seed, the Lakers currently sit at the seventh seed and come into the playoffs finally healthy with their key pieces. The Lakers and the Trail Blazers both have a 41-30 record.

Portland plays Denver today, and if they win they surely avoid the play-ins. But if Portland loses, paired with the Lakers win against New Orleans today, then the Lakers rise to the sixth seed, and Portland falls to the seventh seed. The Lakers are ten-point favorites(-110) to beat the Pelicans. Portland is five-point underdogs against Denver, so Portland may fall to the seven seed at the end of the day.

The Eastern Conference is similar with a three-way tie in the records between the eight to ten seeds. The Hornets and the Wizards face off this afternoon, and the winner secures the eighth spot. The Wizards hope to get Bradley Beal back who is dealing with hamstring tightness, if not the Wiz look for Russell Westbrook to finish off another historic season.

The Hornets have been one of the most exciting teams in the NBA this year, a fast-paced team with many high flyers. With a backcourt of LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, they'll cause problems for the Washington defense. The Wizards are five-point favorites for the game today. The ten-seed Pacers play the Raptors today, a win will raise the Pacers to the nine-seed, which will give them homecourt in the first play-in. The loser of the Hornets-Wizards game today will fall to the tenth seed.

According to Vegas, the seventh seed Celtics have an 83% chance of making the playoffs, eight seed Hornets have a 48.6% chance, nine seed Wizards with a 35.1%, and finally the ten seed Pacers with a 33.4% chance. In the West, the seventh seed Lakers have an 86.6% chance, the eight seed Warriors at 64.4% chance, Grizzlies at 38.5%, and finally the Spurs at 17%.

Especially in the West, the play-in tournament holds serious implications for the matchups for the top seeds. The play-in tournament will host a bunch of dangerous teams, like the Warriors who have been on fire and still can have Stephen Curry drop sixty points on any night. Also the reigning NBA champions, the Lakers, get all their healthy stars back, and can likely pull off a first-round upset against the top seeds.

Look for our Eastern and Western Conference breakdowns later this week once the NBA Playoff brackets are set.

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