NBA Playoff Picture 2019: Updated Postseason Bracket, Races to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 5, 2019

DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 13:  Malik Beasley #25 of the Denver Nuggets is guarded by Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers at  the Pepsi Center on January 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. 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. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The final few days of the NBA regular season will go a long way in determining the first-round playoff matchups.

Entering Friday's action, only one of the eight first-round series is set, and even that has some lingering questions since Boston and Indiana are fighting for home-court advantage in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 showdown in the Eastern Conference. 

What we know for sure is Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia will be the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference and Golden State is close to locking up the top seed in the Western Conference, but after that, there's plenty of uncertainty. 

There are all sorts of possibilities for the other seven matchups, especially in the Western Conference, where the teams from second to fourth have two games between them and the squads in fifth through eighth are separated by 3.5 games. 

                                 

Updated Postseason Bracket

Based on standings following Thursday's games. 

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee vs. No. 8 Orlando

No. 4 Boston vs. No. 5 Indiana

No. 2 Toronto vs. No. 7 Brooklyn

No. 3 Philadelphia vs. No. 6 Detroit

              

Western Conference

No. 1 Golden State vs. No. 8 San Antonio

No. 4 Portland vs. No. 5 Utah

No. 2 Denver vs. No. 7 Oklahoma City

No. 3 Houston vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Clippers

             

Races To Watch

Final 3 Spots in Eastern Conference

The four teams fighting for the final three playoff positions in the Eastern Conference are separated by just one game in the standings. 

Detroit holds the upper hand at the moment at 39-39, but the Pistons, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat have all lost their last two games. 

The complexion of sixth through ninth place could change as soon as Friday, with Detroit and Miami both playing on the road and Orlando at home against Atlanta

Blake Griffin and the Pistons appear to be in the best shape with games against Charlotte, Memphis and New York to close out the season following Friday's trip to Oklahoma City. 

Matt York/Associated Press

Orlando also looks like it's in decent shape with its only game left against a playoff team coming Sunday in Boston. 

If the Magic get the best of Atlanta and Charlotte, it should take over the No. 7 seed, which would leave Brooklyn and Miami to fight for the No. 8 seed. 

The Nets and the Heat have the hardest paths to the playoffs since they have to play two playoff teams before a head-to-head battle in Brooklyn Wednesday. 

Brooklyn, who is 17-22 on the road and 3-7 in its last 10 games, faces road tests against Milwaukee and Indiana before returning home to face the Heat. 

After visiting Minnesota Friday, the Heat head to Toronto for a Sunday clash before hosting Philadelphia in their home finale Tuesday. 

In addition to facing a few difficult games down the stretch, the Heat could be without Josh Richardson for two weeks, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The good news for Miami going into the final game of the regular season is it is 2-1 against the Nets this season, with the latest triumph coming on March 2 by 29 points. 

                        

No. 2 Seed in Western Conference

Avoiding the Golden State Warriors until the Western Conference Finals is the goal for the three teams in the mix for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. 

There will be more clarity in the competition for the second seed after Denver and Portland square off in back-to-back games Friday and Sunday. 

Mike Malone's Nuggets can't afford to slip up at home Friday, or on the road at Moda Center Sunday, because of the easy schedule in front of the Houston Rockets

James Harden and Co. take on New York and Phoenix at home while the Nuggets and Blazers square off.

If Portland wins both games, or the two teams split, the Rockets have an opportunity to swoop in for the No. 2 seed. 

Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

It is important to note that Denver and Portland have a game in hand on the Rockets, but that advantage goes away a bit with a split Friday and Sunday. 

Denver isn't in the clear if it sweeps Portland since an away test against the Utah Jazz—who have won six in a row—awaits Tuesday. 

Damian Lillard and the Blazers have a much easier conclusion to the regular season against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, while Houston's final game is against Oklahoma City. 

The Blazers might have to turn to the Nuggets for help after Sunday if they lose twice since the Jazz are only two games back of the No. 4 seed. 

                            

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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