NBA Playoff Picture 2018: Standings, Top Storylines Entering Season's Final Week

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 9, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 8: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers handles the ball against the Dallas Mavericks on April 8, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

There's no shortage of drama expected for the end of an NBA regular season that has experienced a plethora of juicy storylines.

Beneath the top-two teams in the Eastern and Western Conference is a congested mess in which no seeds are secured, which means Wednesday's regular-season finales will decide the first-round playoff matchups.

All eight postseason participants in the East are decided, but where each team lands in the standings is still up for grabs.

Over in the West, chaos is once again expected to reign supreme, as three games separate Portland in third place from ninth-place Denver.

What makes the sprint to the finish even more interesting in the West is the pair of games on Wednesday featuring teams sitting fifth through ninth.

      

Standings

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto (58-22; clinched home-court advantage)*

2. Boston (54-26)*

3. Philadelphia (50-30)*

4. Cleveland (49-31)*

5. Indiana (48-33)*

6. Miami (43-37)*

7. Milwaukee (43-37)*

8. Washington (42-38)*

      

Western Conference

1. Houston (64-16; clinched home-court advantage)*

2. Golden State (58-23)*

3. Portland (48-32)*

4. Utah (47-33)*

5. New Orleans (46-34)

6. San Antonio (46-34)

7. Oklahoma City (46-34)

8. Minnesota (45-35)

9. Denver (45-35)

*-clinched playoff berth

        

Storylines to Watch in Final Week of Regular Season

Sixers, Cavs Fighting for 3rd in East

Philadelphia gained the upper hand in the race for third place in the East on Friday, as it held on to beat Cleveland at home in a game that produced a 78-point first half.

Ben Simmons was once again the star of the show for the Sixers, who extended their winning streak to 14 games on Sunday with a victory over Dallas.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Brett Brown's team carries a one-game advantage over the Cavs heading into the final three days of the regular season, but it isn't guaranteed the No. 3 seed yet.

After facing an easy task in Atlanta on Tuesday, the Sixers return home to take on Milwaukee in their regular-season finale, while the Cavs close with two games against New York.

Wednesday's clash against the Bucks provides the Sixers with another test before the postseason, as the visitors enter with motivation of their own to beat out Miami and Washington for the No. 6 seed.

If the teams ended up tied at 51-31, the Cavs would hold the slightest of advantages over the Sixers after delving into the tiebreaking procedures.

Since they split their head-to-head meetings and don't reside in the same division, the Cavs and Sixers would be separated by the fourth tiebreaker, which is conference winning percentage.

Cleveland's 34-16 mark against the East is two games better than Philadelphia's 32-18 record, and that advantage would remain if the Cavs finish off the regular season with two wins over the Knicks.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 6:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 6, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/o
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

With that in mind, the Sixers must win to avoid dropping into the No. 4 seed and facing a more difficult first-round matchup against Indiana, who looks set for the No. 5 seed.

The No. 3 seed carries more value in the East now that Kyrie Irving is out for the postseason, as either Philadelphia or Cleveland would presumably face Boston in the second round, instead of encountering Toronto.

      

Chaos Expected At Bottom of West

Four playoff spots remain for five teams in the West after Utah clinched its spot in the postseason Sunday.

New Orleans, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are locked at 46-34, while Minnesota and Denver are a game back in a fight for the No. 8 seed.

All eyes are already on Wednesday's clashes between the Pelicans and Spurs as well as Wolves and Nuggets, but each team has a game to play before then.

Each of the five contenders take the hardwood Monday, with the Thunder visiting Miami, Minnesota hosting Memphis, the Spurs welcoming Sacramento to AT&T Center, Denver playing host to Portland and New Orleans playing the Los Angeles Clippers on the road.

None of the teams inspires a ton of confidence at the moment, but if you were to favor a few teams, the Nuggets and Pelicans fit that role, as they won five and three games in a row, respectively.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

New Orleans holds the inside track to the No. 5 seed thanks to its head-to-head marks against the Spurs and Thunder, and it can solidify its edge in the tiebreaker with a Wednesday win over San Antonio at home.

While four of the contenders have to face off Wednesday, the Thunder face an easy conclusion to the season against the Grizzlies, which leads you to believe they'll qualify even if they suffer a loss to Miami.

The eighth seed comes down to the Wolves and Nuggets, who face off at Target Center on Wednesday night. Denver won the last meeting between the teams a week ago, but it is the second-worst team on the road of the teams eligible for the postseason in the West.

     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from NBA.com.

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