NBA Playoff Picture 2022: Updated Play-in Standings, Predictions After April 3

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 4, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, sits on the Bech next to forward Anthony Davis as head coach Frank Vogel stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are out of a spot in the Western Conference play-in round with six days left in the 2021-22 regular season. 

The Lakers fell at home 129-118 to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday without LeBron James, who rested his injured ankle.

Head coach Frank Vogel's team dropped two games back of the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 10 seed in the West. 

The Lakers are the only team on the outside of the play-in spots still alive to clinch a postseason berth. 

San Antonio gained a game on the New Orleans Pelicans in the fight for the No. 9 seed on Sunday. The Pelicans fell by double figures to the Los Angeles Clippers, who are the No. 8 seed in the West. 

The Pelicans, Spurs and Lakers and four teams in the Eastern Conference will play for positioning or qualification for the play-in round over the next six days. 


Updated NBA Standings

Western Conference

1. Phoenix Suns (62-16)

2. Memphis Grizzlies (55-23)

3. Golden State Warriors (50-29)

4. Dallas Mavericks (49-30)

5. Denver Nuggets (47-32)

6. Utah Jazz (46-32)


Play-In Positions

7. Minnesota Timberwolves (45-34)

8. Los Angeles Clippers (39-40)

9. New Orleans Pelicans (34-44)

10. San Antonio Spurs (33-45)

11. Los Angeles Lakers (31-47) 


Los Angeles has four contests left to gain an edge in the win column. 

San Antonio could clinch the No. 10 seed as soon as Thursday, but that may be a difficult task for Gregg Popovich's squad. 

The Spurs have three road games remaining in their final four contests, just like the Lakers, and they have to face Denver, Minnesota and Dallas in their travels, all of whom are fighting for playoff seeding. 

Los Angeles could receive a break on Tuesday in Phoenix since the Suns have the No. 1 seed in the West locked up. Phoenix could rest some of its starters for a half, or in the entire game, just like it did Sunday in Oklahoma City. 

The Lakers have to visit Golden State and Denver, but they get a bit of a reprieve with a home clash against Oklahoma City on Friday. 

Los Angeles needs to go on a four-game winning streak and hope for the Spurs to go 1-3 to avoid losing out on the No. 10 seed. 

The rest of the Western Conference play-in math is fairly easy. New Orleans needs to stay one game ahead of San Antonio to obtain the No. 9 seed. 

New Orleans will face the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers in its next two games, and it may benefit from Memphis already owning the No. 2 seed on Saturday. 

The Clippers' win over the Pelicans on Sunday locked them into the No. 8 seed. 

Minnesota is 1.5 games back of the Utah Jazz for the No. 6 seed. Utah is 1-6 in its last seven games, so there is a small chance it'll drop below the top six. 

However, Utah has an easier final week with Oklahoma City and Portland, as well as Memphis and Phoenix, both of whom could rest players. 

Prediction: 7. Minnesota, 8. L.A. Clippers, 9. New Orleans, 10. San Antonio


Eastern Conference

1. Miami Heat (51-28)

2. Boston Celtics (49-30)

3. Milwaukee Bucks (48-30)

4. Philadelphia 76ers (48-30)

5. Chicago Bulls (45-33)

6. Toronto Raptors (45-33) 


Play-In Positions

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (43-36)

8. Atlanta Hawks (41-37)

9. Charlotte Hornets (40-38)

10. Brooklyn Nets (40-38)


Cleveland, Atlanta, Charlotte and Brooklyn will likely be the four Eastern Conference play-in teams.

That became even more apparent after the Cavaliers fell to Philadelphia at home on Sunday.

Cleveland is 2.5 games back of the No. 6 seed with four games remaining. 

Darius Garland and Co. hold a 1.5-game edge on Atlanta for the No. 7 seed, which should be their focus over the next six days. 

Cleveland can move closer to the No. 7 seed by beating Orlando on the road Tuesday. Then the Cavs have three days off to prepare for Brooklyn.

Atlanta beat Brooklyn on Saturday to vault itself into the No. 8 position in the East. The Hawks finish with clashes against Toronto and Miami as well as matchups with the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets.

The Hawks should go 2-2 at worst, but they ideally would go 4-0 in that stretch to leapfrog Cleveland. 

Charlotte and Brooklyn have identical 40-38 records in the battle to host the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game. Both teams are one game back of Atlanta. 

Brooklyn has an easier schedule than the Hornets. The Nets finish with Houston, New York, Cleveland and Indiana.

If they sweep the final week, they could be in a spot to pick off the Hawks for the eighth seed, but at minimum, they should be the favorite to earn the ninth seed. 

Charlotte will visit Miami and Chicago and host Orlando and Washington. A 2-2 split will not be good enough because of the Nets' favorable schedule. 

The Hornets need to win on the road once in Miami or Chicago, which may be difficult since both teams are fighting for seeding in the top six. 

Prediction: 7. Cleveland, 8. Atlanta, 9. Brooklyn, 10. Charlotte