If fans are seeking some early NBA playoff drama this season, it’s looking like a very real possibility in a number of the matchups. But one worth watching is a potential Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder series right out of the gate in round one of the 2019 postseason.
While the Thunder were in the top half of the Western Conference playoff picture just weeks ago, they’ve fallen down into a tie for the No. 7 seed with the San Antonio Spurs, and only five games remaining. If the postseason began today, it would be the top-seed Warriors against the eight-seed Thunder due to tiebreakers, but even Golden State’s spot isn’t secure at this moment.
We’re going to take a deeper dive into the current standings and the outlook moving forward relating to the playoff picture. The Eastern Conference has a chance to see a ton of movement, so let’s start there.
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture
Note: Standings updated prior to Tuesday, April 2 games, courtesy of the NBA.
- 1. Milwaukee Bucks: 58-20*
- 2. Toronto Raptors: 55-23*
- 3. Philadelphia 76ers: 49-28*
- 4. Boston Celtics: 46-32*
- 5. Indiana Pacers: 46-32*
- 6. Detroit Pistons: 39-38*
- 7. Brooklyn Nets: 39-39*
- 8. Miami Heat: 38-39*
- 9. Orlando Magic: 38-40 (0.5 games back of No. 8)
- 10. Charlotte Hornets: 35-42 (3.0 games back of No. 8)
*Notates teams currently in the playoffs
The Eastern Conference is set to offer a wild finish to the year, as there are a number of playoff spots undecided. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are nearly locked into the No. 1 seed while the Raptors and Kawhi Leonard will be No. 2 if that’s the case. The same can be said for the 76ers in terms of knowing their fate, as it’d take a pretty huge implosion to drop 3.5 games with just five left on the schedule.
But the Celtics have made up ground and actually grabbed the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage from the Pacers, who were previously as high as No. 3. The injury to Victor Oladipo was brutal, and it’s certainly impacted their overall outlook, but they’re still bound for a top-five seed.
Finally, the bottom of the East is one of the most interesting spots to monitor. This is partially due to the fact that there are five teams jockeying for three seeds and each is up for grab. But beyond that, matchups with the Bucks, Raptors and 76ers don’t seem appealing, but it’s likely teams will at least want to avoid Milwaukee and Toronto. Regardless, any team who makes it as a bottom-three seed will have a tall task in the playoffs.
It is worth noting that the recent struggles from the Hornets, who have dropped three straight, leave them with a tough outlook. But with five games left, Kemba Walker and company will face three potential East playoff teams (Toronto, Detroit, Orlando) and have two very winnable games (Pelicans Cavaliers).
Western Conference Playoff Picture
- 1. Golden State Warriors: 52-24
- 2. Denver Nuggets: 51-25
- 3. Portland Trail Blazers: 49-28
- 4. Houston Rockets: 49-28
- 5. Utah Jazz: 47-30
- 6. Los Angeles Clippers: 47-31
- 7. San Antonio Spurs: 44-33
- 8. Oklahoma City Thunder: 44-33
As you can see, there are a few logjams spread across the Western Conference. At the top, the Warriors and Nuggets are both battling for the No. 1 spot. These two teams meet Tuesday night, and if Golden State wins it would give them a big edge along with a 3-1 record against Denver this season.
The Blazers and Rockets are both in a good position for home-court advantage, but who lands the No. 3 seed is the question. While there may be a preference to avoid the Warriors in a possible second-round matchup, that’s likely one of the main selling points on winding up in the third spot. That same outlook stands true for the Jazz and Clippers, but in reverse, as the six seed could have a chance to dodge the Warriors in round two.
The aforementioned Spurs/Thunder situation is the last spot to evaluate, as the rest of the West has been eliminated from contention. San Antonio holds a 2-1 series lead this season against Oklahoma City and the two teams will not meet again. In order for the Thunder to move up to No. 7, they’ll need to have a better outright record than Gregg Popovich’s team.