NBA Playoff Schedule 2020: Known Dates for Each Round of BracketAugust 11, 2020
Only one of the 16 spots in the NBA playoffs is still available, but it's a tight race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
With less than a week to go until the start of the postseason, several teams still have aspirations of sneaking in. And now, even getting to the No. 8 spot may not be enough to reach the opening round of the playoffs.
After the Memphis Grizzlies lost to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, it guaranteed there will be at least one play-in game for the final playoff berth. The Nos. 8 and 9 teams in the Western Conference will face each other on Saturday.
If the No. 8 seed wins, they'll advance; if the No. 9 seed wins, the two teams will play a winner-take-all game Sunday, with a first-round matchup against the No. 1-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on the line.
No team has been hotter in the NBA bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World than the Phoenix Suns, who improved to 6-0 in seeding games with their win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.
The Suns are one game back of the Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot, as are the San Antonio Spurs, while the Portland Trail Blazers are currently in the No. 9 spot, a half-game back of Memphis and a half-game ahead of Phoenix and San Antonio.
After a look at the schedule for the upcoming playoffs, we'll break down each of the four teams still alive in the battle for the final spot in the Western Conference.
NBA Playoff Schedule
Aug. 15: Western Conference play-in game, 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Aug. 16: Potential second Western Conference play-in game (if necessary)
Aug. 17: Start of first round of playoffs
Aug. 31: Conference semifinals target date
Sept. 15: Conference finals target date
Sept. 30: NBA Finals target date
Oct. 13: Last possible date for final game of NBA Finals
Contenders for Final Playoff Spot
Memphis Grizzlies (33-38)
The No. 8 seed in the Western Conference was the Grizzlies' to lose when the 2019-20 season resumed in July. They were in the position when play resumed and controlled their own destiny heading into their eight seeding games.
However, Memphis has struggled, going 1-5 in its first six seeding games, which included losses to Portland and San Antonio, two of the other teams still alive in this race. And those two defeats were two of the Grizzlies' toughest, as they lost to the Trail Blazers in overtime on July 31 and by two points to the Spurs on Aug. 2, their first two seeding games.
Now, even if Memphis finishes in the No. 8 spot, it will have to win the play-in game (or the possible second play-in game) to reach the first round of the playoffs. But that's not the team's focus at the moment.
"I'm not worried about no play-in game right now," Grizzlies guard Ja Morant said, according to ESPN's Eric Woodyard. "Our focus now is learning from our mistakes from this game against the Raptors and try to fix them when we go out and play Boston."
The Grizzlies are still to play the Celtics and Bucks, and although those are two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, both could rest key players as they are already locked into their seeds for the playoffs. So, that could bode well for Memphis as it tries to remain in the No. 8 spot.
Portland Trail Blazers (33-39)
The Trail Blazers have been playing well since play resumed, going 4-2 through their first six seeding games. Both their losses came against strong opponents (the Celtics on Aug. 2 and the Clippers this past Saturday), while they've earned quality wins over the Grizzlies, Rockets, Nuggets and 76ers.
As long as Portland wins its final two seeding games, it's assured of finishing at least in the No. 9 spot, which would give it the opportunity to be in the play-in game and potentially reach the first round of the playoffs. The Trail Blazers are looking to reach the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.
On Sunday, Portland notched a 124-121 victory over Philadelphia, with Damian Lillard scoring 51 points. If he continues to play like that the rest of the week, there's no reason to think the Trail Blazers won't at least reach the play-in game, if not move up to the No. 8 seed.
Portland's final two seeding games are against the teams currently in the No. 7 seed in each conference, Dallas and Brooklyn. While both are quality opponents, it gives the Trail Blazers a strong chance of finishing strong and keeping their season alive, as there are tougher teams they could be facing.
Phoenix Suns (32-39)
When the season resumed, the Suns were the biggest long shot to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. They were six games behind the Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot, and there were four other teams ahead of them.
Despite that, Phoenix is in a position to potentially reach the play-in game after winning its first six seeding games. It's been an impressive and improbable run, but it will need to keep playing well in order to get into the postseason, which seemed like an unlikely scenario two weeks ago.
"We've done a good job of getting to this point," Suns coach Monty Williams said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "No one knew we were going to be here, but we're here and we're thankful for that."
Phoenix's final two seeding games will be against Philadelphia and Dallas. The Suns already beat the Mavericks once since the season resumed, notching a 117-115 victory on Aug. 2. But even if they win both games, they'll need to hope the Grizzlies and/or Trail Blazers lose to move in front of one of them.
San Antonio Spurs (31-38)
Like the Suns, the Spurs are in a position where they'll need some help to get into the play-in game. Both teams are one game behind Memphis and a half-game behind Phoenix.
San Antonio has been playing well to put itself in contention, going 4-2 in its first six seeding games. Things seemed to be taking a bad turn when the Spurs lost back-to-back games to the 76ers and Nuggets last week, but they've bounced back by beating the Jazz on Friday and the Pelicans on Sunday.
With its last victory, San Antonio not only stayed alive but it also eliminated New Orleans from playoff contention.
"If we're able to be in that ninth spot, that's quite a victory and it says a lot about how this young group has come together with three of the starters out," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "I'm already thrilled with how they played, and it'd be really fantastic if we could get that."
In its final two seeding games, San Antonio plays Houston and Utah, two strong teams that could pose a challenge. But it's already a bit of a surprise that the Spurs are still in contention, so perhaps anything will be possible this week.