More than just Lakers are jockeying for position in the final week of NBA regular season

·5 min read

In the final week of the season, the talk of the Los Angeles Lakers having to get into the postseason via the play-in tournament is all the rage.

But that’s not the only compelling playoff push with seven days left in the NBA’s 2020-21 regular season.

The top seeds aren’t locked just yet, and teams are jockeying for position throughout the standings.

We take a look the scenarios in the Eastern and Western conferences headed into Monday's games and see who is in solid position, a precarious situation and on the outside looking in while factoring in the tiebreakers that could be the difference between a guaranteed playoff spot and the play-in game format.

Joel Embiid (21) and Tobias Harris have led the 76ers to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Joel Embiid (21) and Tobias Harris have led the 76ers to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Eastern Conference

The top three seeds

Philadelphia is close to locking up the top seed in the East. The Sixers are three games up on Brooklyn and 3½ ahead of Milwaukee.

The Bucks are trying to catch the Nets for the No. 2 seed, and they own head-to-head tiebreaker.

Philadelphia: at Indiana, at Miami, vs. Orlando, vs. Orlando

Brooklyn: at Chicago, vs. San Antonio, vs. Chicago, vs. Cleveland

Milwaukee: at San Antonio, vs. Orlando, at Indiana, vs. Miami, at Chicago

Spots 4-5-6

The Knicks are in fourth place but just a game ahead of Atlanta and Miami, both tied for fifth place with 37-31 records. The Knicks have the tiebreaker over the Hawks but not the Heat.

If the Knicks, Hawks and Heat finish with identical records, Atlanta would be the fourth seed, based on the Hawks winning the division on the head-to-head tiebreaker against Miami, which would end up fifth and the Knicks sixth. The Heat are in a situation where they could finish fourth or seventh.

No. 7 Boston is two games behind the Heat and Hawks and is trying to avoid the play-in game. Atlanta owns the tiebreaker over Boston and Miami, and in an important game on Tuesday, the Celtics play the Heat with the winner earning the tiebreaker.

New York: at Los Angeles Lakers, vs. San Antonio, vs. Charlotte, vs. Boston

Atlanta: vs. Washington, vs. Washington, vs. Orlando, vs. Houston

Miami: at Boston, vs. Philadelphia, at Milwaukee, at Detroit

Boston: vs. Miami, at Cleveland, at Minnesota, at New York Knicks

The play-in game scenario

With the head-to-head advantage over Charlotte, the Celtics should be able to avoid the eighth seed. Spots 8-10 are up for grabs in the East with the Hornets one game ahead of Washington and 1½ games up on Indiana. The Hornets have the tiebreaker edge over Washington and Indiana, and the Wizards get the tiebreaker over the Pacers via a 3-0 season sweep.

Chicago is making a late run for the 10th spot with a three-game winning streak and the return of Zach LaVine. Though the Bulls have the tiebreaker edge over Indiana and Washington, the Bulls are 2½ behind the Pacers and three behind the Wizards and have a difficult remaining schedule

Boston: vs. Miami, at Cleveland, at Minnesota, at New York Knicks

Charlotte: vs. Denver, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, at New York Knicks, at Washington

Washington: at Atlanta, at Atlanta, vs. Cleveland, vs. Charlotte

Indiana: at Cleveland, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Milwaukee, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at Toronto

Chicago: vs. Brooklyn, vs. Toronto, at Brooklyn, vs. Milwaukee

Western Conference

A two-team race for the top seed

In the West, Utah owns a two-game lead over Phoenix for the No. 1 seed and needs to finish with a better record than the Suns who own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Utah: at Golden State, vs. Portland, at Oklahoma City, at Sacramento

Phoenix: at Golden State, vs. Portland, at San Antonio, at San Antonio

Clippers or Nuggets for the third seed?

The Los Angeles Clippers are a game ahead of Denver for the No. 3 seed with the Nuggets owning the tiebreaker. The Clippers get a break in the schedule, playing three teams who are not in the playoff chase.

Los Angeles Clippers: at Toronto, at Charlotte, at Houston, at Oklahoma City

Denver: at Charlotte, at Minnesota, at Detroit, at Portland

LeBron James and Anthony Davis have played just two games together since Feb. 14, which is a big reason why the Lakers are fighting to avoid the play-in games.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis have played just two games together since Feb. 14, which is a big reason why the Lakers are fighting to avoid the play-in games.

Can the Lakers avoid the play-in game?

Dallas has a one-game lead over Portland and a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers for sixth place. The Mavericks are in a good spot when it comes to avoiding the play-in game, owning the tiebreaker over the Lakers. However, Portland has the tiebreaker if it finishes with the same record as Dallas.

The Lakers not only must wins games to avoid the play-in game, they need Portland to lose games because the Trail Blazers are 2-1 against the Lakers this season, earning the tiebreaker. Portland finishes with a tough schedule, too -- vs. Houston, at Utah, at Phoenix, vs. Denver. The Lakers close out against the Knicks and Houston and on the road against Indiana and New Orleans.

Eight-place Golden State has a ½-game lead on ninth-place Memphis. With the season series tied at 1-1, the final game of the season between the two teams could decide who gets the higher seed. The Grizzlies likely will avoid the 10th seed with a two-game lead and tiebreaker advantage over San Antonio. The 10th-place Spurs are 1½ up on New Orleans, plus own the tiebreaker.

Dallas: at Memphis, vs. New Orleans, vs. Toronto, at Minnesota

Portland: vs. Houston, at Utah, at Phoenix, vs. Denver

Los Angeles Lakers: vs. New York, vs. Houston, at Indiana, at New Orleans

Golden State: vs. Utah, vs. Phoenix, vs. New Orleans, vs. Memphis

Memphis: vs. New Orleans, vs. Dallas, vs. Sacramento, vs. Sacramento, at Golden State

San Antonio: vs. Milwaukee, at Brooklyn, at New York, vs. Phoenix, vs. Phoenix

New Orleans: at Memphis, at Dallas, at Golden State, vs. Los Angeles Lakers

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lakers aren't only team jockeying for position in final week of season

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