NBA playoff race remains tight



As the NBA regular season comes to a close, all eyes are on the number of playoff spots that have yet to be taken.

BEN LAHART, Sports Writer

Previewing the playoffs: who has the best odds?

With just a week left in the NBA regular season, the NBA playoff race is seemingly as close as it could possibly be. There are still a number of playoff spots up for grabs and a lot of moving around to be done before the 77th NBA champion can be crowned.

In the Eastern Conference, four teams have already clinched a spot in the playoffs led by the Milwaukee Bucks with a record of 55-22. The Boston Celtics are just 1.5 games behind in second place, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

If the season ended today, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets would make up the final two playoff spots. The four play-in teams would currently be held by the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls, however the Washington Wizards, Indianapolis Pacers and Orlando Magic are still in the running to claim a spot. The Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons have already been disqualified.

Former UNI Panther AJ Green is a rookie on the top-seeded Bucks with a two-way contract. Green has averaged 4.5 points in 33 games this season.

In the Western Conference, only three teams have secured their place in the postseason. In first place is the Denver Nuggets with a 51-26 record closely followed by the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings who are two and four games behind, respectively. This is the first time the Kings have made the playoffs since the 2006 season. ending what was the longest playoff drought in NBA history.

The other three teams that currently sit in the playoffs are the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. The New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder make up the play-in teams currently as well. 

There is a lot of opportunity for shifting in the seeding currently in the West. With each team having only four or five games remaining, there is only a six game difference between fourth place and twelfth place. Only three teams, the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets have all been eliminated from playoff contention.

A repeat matchup from last year’s Finals is still a possibility with the Warriors and Celtics both currently in position to make the playoffs. The Warriors have taken a slight step back from last year’s championship caliber team while the Celtics have had another solid season sitting second in the East.

The Bucks currently have the best odds to win the Finals followed by the Celtics and the Suns, but the title is still up for grabs by anyone. The play-in tournament begins on Tuesday, April 11 followed by the playoffs beginning Saturday, April 15.