NBA Playoff Picture 2019: Latest Bracket Scenarios for Final Day of Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2019

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

The 2019 NBA playoff picture is nearly set. There is one postseason slot remaining in the Eastern Conference, but 15 of the 16 playoff participants are already known.

What isn't known yet is exactly what the eight first-round matchups will be. With just one day left of regular-season play, some interesting scenarios that can occur. That last playoff slot in the East aside, there is some potential seed shuffling in both conferences.

Here is a look at the current standings—relevant to the postseason—and what's at stake on Wednesday.


2019 NBA Playoff Picture

Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks (60-21)

2. Toronto Raptors (58-24)

3. Philadelphia 76ers (50-31)

4. Boston Celtics (49-33)

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5. Indiana Pacers (47-34)

6. Brooklyn Nets (41-40)

7. Orlando Magic (41-40)

8. Detroit Pistons (40-41)

9. Charlotte Hornets (39-42)


Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors (57-24)

2. Denver Nuggets (53-28)

3. Houston Rockets (53-29)

4. Portland Trail Blazers (52-29)

5. Utah Jazz (50-31)

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-33)

7. San Antonio Spurs (47-34)

8. Los Angeles Clippers (47-34)


It's Win-and-In for the Pistons

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

With a one-game lead over the Charlotte Hornets, the Detroit Pistons only need a win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday to slip into the postseason as a No. 8 seed.

A loss, however, could potentially end Detroit's season, as Charlotte owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Charlotte went 4-0 against Detroit in the regular season.

This means that even against the lowly Knicks, who have the league's worst record at 17-64, the Pistons are going to face some pressure in the finale. It won't help matters that Blake Griffin (knee) may miss another game.

"I wasn't able to help us tonight," Griffin said after Tuesday's comeback victory, per Ansar Khan of "We'll assess it (Wednesday) with our training staff and figure it out."

Detroit can also clinch the eighth seed if both the Pistons and the Hornets lose. They can move up to the seventh seed with a win and losses by the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.


Magic Can Move up a Spot

If the Brooklyn Nets knock off the Heat and the Magic lose, Detroit can slip into the seventh seed. This scenario would lock up the No. 6 seed for Brooklyn and allow Detroit to move up thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker over Orlando. 

However, a loss by Brooklyn opens the door for Orlando to jump up to the sixth seed with a win over the Hornets. 

Since Brooklyn owns a 2-1 record against Orlando in the regular season—and therefore the head-to-head tiebreaker—wins or losses by both teams would leave them in their current playoff slots.


Rockets Could Take Second Seed or Fall to Fourth

The Golden State Warriors have locked up the top seed in the Western Conference, but things are a little unsettled after that. The Houston Rockets have finished their regular season with a 53-29 record but by no means have their playoff path settled.

Houston went 3-1 against the Denver Nuggets in the regular season and will win the tiebreaker if both teams finish with identical records. This places a lot of pressure on Denver to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in the finale.

However, the Rockets could also fall to the four spot if the Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers both pick up wins on Wednesday—Portland went 2-1 against Houston in the regular season.

Portland plays the Sacramento Kings in their finale and split the two earlier regular-season meetings. While the Trail Blazers can move into the No. 3 slot, they cannot overtake Denver because of a 1-3 head-to-head record.


Uncertainty at the Bottom of the West

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

We could also see some shuffling at the bottom of the Western Conference, and the San Antonio Spurs are the team with the biggest margin for movement. 

Since San Antonio won the head-to-head series against the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1), they can grab the sixth seed with a win and a Thunder loss on Wednesday. Of course, the Thunder play the Milwaukee Bucks, who have locked up the top seed in the East and who have nothing to play for.

The Spurs could also fall to the eighth seed with a loss and a win by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Los Angeles can avoid a first-round matchup with the defending champion Warriors with a win and losses by the Thunder, the Spurs or both. Finishing the season with a win, however, is the top goal for Los Angeles.

"Obviously, everything changes once playoff time comes around," guard Landry Shamet said, per Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times, "But we just want to get a win, kind of get primed for that playoff run, get that playoff mindset going."

Depending on how Wednesday unfolds, the Clippers could face the Warriors, Nuggets or Rockets in Round 1.


Round 1 Matchups if Playoffs Started Today

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Detroit Pistons

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Orlando Magic

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets

No. 4 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers

No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs

No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz