NBA Playoffs 2021: Known Schedule, Bracket Picture Before Final Games of Season

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 16, 2021

Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole shoots against Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen (3) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

A full Sunday slate of NBA play will determine the organization of the playoff fields in the Eastern and Western Conferences. 

Only a few things are known about the playoff seeding and the play-in tournaments that will involve the teams ranked seventh through 10th in each conference. 

The Philadelphia 76ers are locked into the East's top seed and the Utah Jazz can lock up home-court advantage in the West by beating the Sacramento Kings. 

Some scenarios, like the Jazz's, come against weaker teams, but in the case of the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, they are playing direct competition in the playoff race.

The clashes between Golden State and Memphis and the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards will impact where both sides land in the play-in bracket.

Teams ranked in the top six have plenty to play for as well. Both No. 4 seeds, as well as the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds in the West are among the awards up for grabs during the slate that starts at 1 p.m. ET. 


NBA Playoffs Schedule

Tuesday, May 18

East No. 10 vs. East No. 9 (Time TBD, TNT)

East No. 8 vs. No. 7 Boston (Time TBD, TNT)


Wednesday, May 19

No. 10 San Antonio vs. West No. 9 (Time TBD, ESPN)

West No. 8 vs. West No. 7 (Time TBD, ESPN)


Thursday, May 20

Winner of East 9-10 game vs. Loser of East 7-8 Game (Time TBD, TNT)


Friday, May 21

Winner of West 9-10 game vs. Loser of West 7-8 game (Time TBD, ESPN) 


Conference Standings

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia (48-23)

2. Brooklyn (47-24)

3. Milwaukee (46-25)

4. New York (40-31)

5. Atlanta (40-31)

6. Miami (39-32)

7. Boston (36-35)

8. Charlotte (33-38)

9. Washington (33-38)

10. Indiana (33-38)


If you need a road map to get through Sunday, the Charlotte-Washington game is where you should start. 

Charlotte's loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday opened up the possibility for Washington to land the No. 8 seed, which comes with a bit more security in the play-in tournament. The Wizards can afford one loss in the 7-8 game.

If Washington beats Charlotte, it will secure the eighth position and potentially drop the Hornets down to 10th depending on what happens with the Indiana Pacers against the Toronto Raptors. 

Since the Raptors have opted to rest most of their stars, Indiana is projected to win. The Pacers can finish as high as ninth and would be one game ahead of the Charlotte-Washington loser on win-loss record in that scenario. 

Boston's matchup with the Knicks does not matter to it since it secured the No. 7 seed earlier in the week. That means the Knicks are the only franchise in that matchup with something to play for. 

New York needs a victory to fend off the Atlanta Hawks' challenge for the No. 4 seed. The Hawks host the Houston Rockets at 7 p.m. ET, so they will know if they need a victory to jump the Knicks or not. 

Brooklyn and Milwaukee are expected to remain in the same order at Nos. 2 and 3 since the Nets host the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Bucks take on the Chicago Bulls. 

If the Nets hold on to the second seed, they will be aligned on the opposite side of the bracket as the Sixers, who finish the regular season against the Orlando Magic. 


Western Conference

1. Utah (51-20)

2. Phoenix (50-21)

3. Denver (47-24)

4. Los Angeles Clippers (47-24)

5. Dallas (42-29)

6. Portland (41-30)

7. Los Angeles Lakers (41-30)

8. Golden State (38-33)

9. Memphis (38-33)

10. San Antonio (33-38)


Once you are done with Hornets-Wizards, you can focus on Golden State-Memphis for the West's No. 8 seed. 

The winner of the contest at Chase Center will pick up the No. 8 seed and likely face the Los Angeles Lakers in the 7-8 play-in game. 

The loser of Sunday afternoon's showdown in the Bay Area will host the San Antonio Spurs in the 9-10 game in which the loser will be eliminated. 

Golden State and Memphis split their two regular-season meetings in Memphis on March 19 and 20. Stephen Curry did not play in either contest. 

Once that game ends, the wait will go on until 9 p.m. ET for the rest of the West field to be settled, with most of the focus on the teams third through seventh. 

If the Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Lakers all win, Dallas and Portland would avoid the play-in tournament and force the reigning champion to win one game to land a playoff berth. 

Los Angeles needs to beat the New Orleans Pelicans and have the Blazers lose to the Denver Nuggets to move up to No. 6. 

However, it may not be in Denver's best interest to win that contest because then it would lock it into a first-round matchup with the Lakers. 

The Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas are both expected to beat Oklahoma City and Minnesota, respectively, so they could be headed for a first-round matchup. 

Utah will land the top seed by beating Sacramento. A Jazz win and a Nuggets loss would doom the Phoenix Suns to the No. 2 seed and a potential showdown with the Lakers or Warriors in the 2-versus-7 game. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.