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NBA Playoffs 2020: Updated Standings and Predictions on Race for the 8th Seed

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, right, shoots past Memphis Grizzlies' Jonas Valanciunas during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

With six seeding games or less left until the end of the NBA's restarted regular season, the playoff picture is beginning to take focus.

In the Eastern Conference, there are three teams vying for the No. 7 and No. 8 spot: Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards.

Mathematically, the Wizards have no chance of catching the Nets, even if the latter loses all of its six remaining games.

To make it in to the postseason, Washington will need to not only go on a five-game winning streak, they'll need to be within four games of either Brooklyn or Orlando. Then they'd battle it out in a play-in tournament.

Chances are, though, that the Wizards, who are on a three-game losing streak, won't be able to close the gap, leaving the path clear for the Nets and the Magic to lock in the final two seeds.

Things are a little more complicated in the Western Conference.

Seven teams have already clinched their playoff berths, so it's just a matter of jockeying for position.

But for the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, the No. 8 seed is still up for grabs.

All six squads are only four games apart in the standings, so the games left on the schedule are very important.

Memphis is holding the final spot, but it's lost three in a row. If the Grizz want to stave off the other five teams, they'll need to bounce back and start winning in a hurry.

Here's a quick look at the updated standings and a few predictions on the race for the eighth seed.

NBA @NBA

The @Lakers clinch the best record in the West. #WholeNewGame https://t.co/puN9SJdEed

           

Eastern Conference Standings

1. x-Milwaukee Bucks (54-13)

2. x-Toronto Raptors (48-18)

3. x-Boston Celtics (44-22)

4. x-Miami Heat (42-25)

5. x-Indiana Pacers (41-26)

6. x-Philadelphia 76ers (40-27)

7. Orlando Magic (32-35)

8. Brooklyn Nets (31-35)

9. Washington Wizards (24-43)

           

Western Conference Standings

1. x-Los Angeles Lakers (50-15)

2. x-Los Angeles Clippers (45-21)

3. x-Denver Nuggets (44-23)

4. x-Houston Rockets (42-24)

5. x-Utah Jazz (42-24)

6. x-Oklahoma City Thunder (41-25)

7. x-Dallas Mavericks (40-29)

8. Memphis Grizzlies (32-36)

9. Portland Trail Blazers (30-38)

10. San Antonio Spurs (29-37)

11 New Orleans Pelicans (29-37)

12. Sacramento Kings (28-38)

13. Phoenix Suns (28-39)

x = clinched a playoff spot

      

Predictions

Unless there's a drastic trend in the other direction, it's apparent that the Wizards may have been better off if they could have opted to turn down the invite to the bubble and stayed back in Washington.

They're seven games behind the Nets, and it doesn't look like they're going to be able to catch up.

Bradley Beal didn't make the trip, and John Wall is still working his way back from injury.

All that's left is the team's third-leading scorer, Rui Hachimura, who will be looking to establish himself as a go-to player for the franchise.

Look for Orlando to hold on the the seventh seed and Brooklyn to clinch the eighth spot.

Over on the West Coast, a real race to the finish is brewing, and there are some exciting matchups on the horizon.

Zion Williamson is back in the bubble after an excused absence due to a family matter, and he's already making some noise, helping his Pelicans beat the Grizzlies 109-99 on Monday.

In the head-to-head matchup with Ja Morant, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft put up 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Williamson only played 25 minutes because of a "burst restriction," but he was in the game during the crucial fourth quarter run.

"I felt alive again," Williamson told ESPN's Andrew Lopez (h/t Malika Andrews). "My competitive spirit was there, and I'm glad Coach [Alvin Gentry] and the whole team trusted me to finish the game out."

With the win, the Pels are only three games behind the Grizz, setting the stage to make sure at least one of the two Rookie of the Year finalists will be in the postseason.

Portland may spoil that notion.

The Blazers are healthy for the first time in a while, and they are out to prove that last season's deep playoff run was not a fluke.

Sacramento and Phoenix are both dark-horse contenders for the final berth, and as long as either one is within four games, they'll have as good a shot as anyone to make it in.

Although the Spurs are known for their success in the postseason, they've got a pretty tough schedule to finish out things out. Of the five remaining games, they'll likely only win one, which may mean they won't even qualify for the play-in tourney.

But no matter who is left to scrap for the eighth seed, in the end, it will be Portland that seals the deal and takes on the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

That's the kind of series that should make Lakers fans very nervous.

Sure, the league wouldn't mind having LeBron James face off against Williamson, the presumptive heir apparent as the face of the NBA, but with the way the Blazers are locked in, don't count on seeing that marquee matchup this season.

    

Follow Maurice Bobb on Twitter, @ReeseReport