The teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference NBA playoff race likely won’t produce many upsets in Round 1, but the jockeying to get in has provided plenty of intrigue in the season’s final week.
The East’s top 5 seeds have already been determined: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Toronto, 3. Philadelphia, 4. Boston, 5. Indiana. But with two games left in the regular season there are still three seeds to be determined, and one final playoff spot remaining with three teams trying to get it.
This all makes for some intriguing NBA betting plays.
Nets, Magic Clinch Playoff Berths
On Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets clinched their first playoff berth since 2015 and the Orlando Magic ended a seven-year playoff drought by clinching with a win over the Boston Celtics.
It was fitting that both teams earned their spots on the same day considering how unlikely it was that either would be here. Oddsmakers pegged the Nets for 31.5 wins and the Magic for 30.5 coming into the season; even in the weak East, neither were supposed to compete for the postseason.
Brooklyn can clinch the No. 6 seed Wednesday with a victory at home over the Heat and the Magic can avoid the No. 8 seed – and a first round date with the Bucks – with a win on Wednesday against the Hornets in Charlotte.
Detroit Pistons Struggling but Control Destiny
The Pistons picked an inopportune time to play their worst basketball of the year. On March 17 they had defeated the Raptors at home and were 36-33, sixth in the East. Since then they’ve been in freefall, going 3-8 and suffering four straight losses to muddy up their playoff certainty.
The good news for the Pistons is that they still control their own destiny and play a pair of tanking teams to close out the season.
Head coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday’s game against the 32-win Memphis Grizzlies is “like Game 7 for us.”
They’ll then finish on the road against the 16-win New York Knicks, and while Detroit will be a heavy favorite in both games, its current struggles prove no opponent should be taken lightly.
Add in the fact that Blake Griffin is playing through a sore left knee – he has missed four games with the injury in the past month and the Pistons are 1-3 – and Detroit’s situation only gets cloudier.
If they split the two games and the Charlotte Hornets lose one of their last two, Detroit is in. Because they control their destiny and can qualify even without winning out, the Pistons have -500 odds to clinch the last spot.
Heat Playoff Chances on Life Support
For starters, the Heat need to win their last two games, Tuesday at home against the Sixers and Wednesday at the Nets. That feels like a tall order considering Miami has lost four straight and six of nine.
The Heat will have to do it without leading scorer Josh Richardson, who suffered a groin injury last week in his first game back after he missed three with a sore left heel. They’ll get some help with the Sixers resting Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick on Tuesday, and the Nets could rest some starters if their seed is secured by then.
Then the Heat need the sinking Detroit Pistons to lose to both the Grizzlies and Knicks. While that seems unlikely, Detroit has lost four straight; Memphis has won three of their past seven and New York has won two of four.
The Heat would then need the Hornets to lose at least one game to either the Cavs or Magic.
It’s not impossible, though oddsmakers are giving it a slim chance of happening; the Heat are +5000 to make the playoffs.
Charlotte Hornets Could Sneak in
Left for dead in mid-March, the Hornets can’t stop winning. They’ve been victorious in seven of their last 10 and won three straight last week as Kemba Walker was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
The Hornets now have a real shot to sneak in. If they can take care of business against the Cavaliers and Magic, and the Pistons lose to either the Grizzlies or Knicks, they’re in.
Charlotte is still alive thanks to a massive road win in Detroit on Sunday and has some serious momentum heading into the last two days.
The Hornets still need help but Detroit is reeling, so their +300 odds to get in have a legitimate chance.