NBA Playoff Standings 2021: Final Regular-Season Records, Seedings and Bracket

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2021

New York Knicks' Julius Randle directs his teammates in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden, Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York. (Elsa/Pool Photo via AP)
Elsa/Associated Press

With multiple seeds undecided going into the last day of the 2020-21 NBA season, teams had a lot to play for Sunday.

Because the Miami Heat lost to the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night, the New York Knicks had a pathway to the No. 4 spot. After Sunday's win over the Boston Celtics, the Knickerbockers will open the postseason at Madison Square Garden next week. 

The Brooklyn Nets needed a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to clinch the No. 2 seed after Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have only played eight games together all season. Harden sat out Sunday, leaving the Nets with a star duo to wrap up the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. 

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets to avoid the play-in tournament, which kept the Los Angeles Lakers in the seventh seed. The reigning champions have to face a tough opponent in order to lock up their current spot in the playoff picture. 

Let's take a look at the final standings, playoff series and a preview of a must-watch play-in matchup.


Final NBA Standings

Atlantic Division

Philadelphia 76ers: 49-23

Brooklyn Nets: 48-24

New York Knicks: 41-31

Boston Celtics: 36-36

Toronto Raptors: 27-45


Central Division

Milwaukee Bucks: 46-26

Indiana Pacers: 34-38

Chicago Bulls: 31-41

Cleveland Cavaliers: 22-50

Detroit Pistons: 20-52


Southeast Division 

Atlanta Hawks: 41-31

Miami Heat: 40-32

Washington Wizards: 34-38

Charlotte Hornets: 33-39

Orlando Magic: 21-51


Western Conference

Northwest Division

Utah Jazz: 52-20

Denver Nuggets: 47-25

Portland Trail Blazers: 42-30

Minnesota Timberwolves: 23-49

Oklahoma City Thunder: 22-50


Pacific Division 

Phoenix Suns: 51-21

LA Clippers: 47-25

Los Angeles Lakers: 42-30

Golden State Warriors: 39-33

Sacramento Kings: 31-41


Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks: 42-30

Memphis Grizzlies: 38-34

San Antonio Spurs: 33-39

New Orleans Pelicans: 31-41

Houston Rockets: 17-55


2021 Playoff Seeds, Matchups, Play-In Tournaments 

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. TBD

No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. TBD

No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Miami Heat

No. 4 New York Knicks vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks


Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament


The Eastern Conference #StateFarmPlayIn Tournament is locked 🔒 No. 10 @hornets vs. No. 9 @Pacers | TUES at 6:30pm ET on TNT No. 8 @WashWizards vs. No. 7 @celtics | TUES at 9pm ET on TNT https://t.co/LBUOqW6WgN

Western Conference

No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. TBD

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. TBD

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers

No. 4 L.A. Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks


Western Conference Play-In Tournament


🚨 The West #StateFarmPlayIn Tournament matchups are set! 🚨 #10 @spurs vs. #9 @memgrizz - Wednesday at 7:30pm/et on ESPN #8 @warriors vs. #7 @Lakers - Wednesday at 10:00pm/et on ESPN Who ya got?

Knicks Clinch No. 4 Seed

Vincent Carchietta/Associated Press

Early in the week, the Knicks clinched their first playoff berth since the 2012-13 season. On Sunday, they claimed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, topping the Celtics 96-92. 

Tom Thibodeau should garner some attention in the Coach of the Year discussion after the Knicks' quick turnaround from a 21-win 2019-20 campaign.  

Under Thibodeau, New York made significant strides on defense, improving from 23rd (113) to third (108.3) in defensive rating over the last two terms. He also found a lead playmaker in forward Julius Randle. 

This season, Randle earned his first All-Star nod, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists per game, all career highs. He didn't lead the Knicks to the postseason alone, though.

RJ Barrett made progress in his second year, especially in shooting efficiency. He shot 40 percent from three-point land and upped his free-throw conversion rate from 61.4 to 74.6 percent. In February, the Knicks acquired Derrick Rose from the Detroit Pistons, and he became a closer for a squad that had struggled to score late in games.

The Knicks have a tough challenge ahead. They'll face the Atlanta Hawks, who've won their last four games. Going into the series, New York should have some confidence after beating the Hawks in all three matchups this season.


Lakers vs. Warriors Play-in Matchup 

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Before the first round begins, we'll see play-in tournament matchups in the upcoming week. The Lakers' battle with the Warriors will likely draw the most eyeballs.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry claimed his second scoring title, netting 46 points in a win over the Grizzlies Sunday. Meanwhile, the Lakers finished the campaign with a victory over the Pelicans. Most importantly, LeBron James and Anthony Davis suited up for that contest.

Between February and April, Davis missed 32 games with calf and Achilles injury. Since March 20, James has suited up for just four outings. He's battled a lingering right ankle issue and may have tweaked it late in Sunday's game. 

The Lakers have the league's best defensive rating (107.2). They'll force Curry to earn every bucket. The 2020-21 scoring champion needs Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole to help out as secondary scorers with Draymond Green as the ultimate point-forward playmaker.

The Warriors' top-five defensive rating (110.2) suggests we could see a low-scoring battle if James and Davis are limited with nagging injuries.

The battle for the seventh seed will feature star power, a scoring leader and two technically sound defenses for a must-watch matchup.

Keep in mind, as the team with the better record, Los Angeles needs one victory while Golden State would have to win twice for a move into the seventh spot of the playoff picture.

Statistics obtained from Basketball Reference.

Maurice Moton covers the NBA and NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @MoeMoton


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