NBA Playoffs: Dramatic season end will determine 11 seeds and all series pairings

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 23:(EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 23:(EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Donovan Mitchell /
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NBA Playoffs

Eastern Conference Update:

Tuesday Mover and Shakers:

A few games on Tuesday affected the bigger picture. Philly knocked off their 15th consecutive win setting a franchise record.  While the win streak has included just three upper tier squads (Denver, Minnesota and Cleveland) the fact they are winning without Joel Embiid is compelling.

Most impressively, it’s put the 76ers in the driver seat to control their own destiny (more below).

The Wizards finally won a game when they needed to. Since February 28 the Wiz record is 6-13. Oddly the six wins are comprised primarily of elite squads while a large portion of the losses are to teams they should theoretically take handily. Again, this win opens up options for Washington although how other teams perform will have an impact on whether they finish seventh or eighth (more below).

Also,  in fairness to Boston it’s not like they were going to risk injury in order to register a victory which makes no difference to their current positioning.

Four Games will determine four series opponents:

Like the west, no series have been solidified. The Toronto Raptors (1), Boston Celtics (2) and Indiana Pacers (5) are the three seeds who are solidified.

Four games will determine the rest of the bracket and all tip off at 8:00 PM ET.

Knicks at Cavaliers

The King and his posse will host the New York Knicks and need a win for a shot at the third seed. If the Cavs lose or if the 76ers win Cleveland will be the fourth seed and face the Indiana Pacers.

In order to move up Cleveland has to win and hope the Bucks beat the 76ers. In the event the two necessary events work in Cleveland’s favor their sixth seeded opponent will be one of Milwaukee, Miami or Washington. .

Raptors at Heat

More from Thunderous Intentions

All four east games occur in concert, so no advance warning will be available. Keep an eye for teams constantly glancing upward at scoreboards to keep track of opponent’s progress. An interesting side note exists in this game. The Raptors accomplished their first 50 win season in 2015-16, a win tonight would be the first 60 win season in franchise history.

In terms of effort there may also be hints to who the Raptors prefer as their first round opponent. Not pushing for the victory could indicate a preference for Washington whereas a win won’t guarantee a Heat series, but depending on how aggressive the Dino’s are in capturing it sure would tilt the scale.

If Miami win they will finish in sixth or seventh. Additionally, the Heat swept the Bucks and tied the Wizards in their series. Therefore a three-way tie benefits Miami as the Wizards tied both squads Basically a three-way tie benefits Miami who would hold the win percent, conference record plus they could also nab the Division giving them another edge over the other two squads.

Wizards at Magic

Similar to above the Wizards effort would speak to their desires.  A loss would almost certainly land them in eighth.

Former OKC Thunder coach Scott Brooks is unhappy with his crew citing a lack of effort. It’s hard to know if the Wizards recent struggles are tied to fatigue, ‘get mine’ syndrome or the team playing possum to try to land the seventh seed. Notably, the Wizards already have an ongoing feud with Boston and they swept the Raptors in round one three seasons ago.

Bucks at Sixers

This contest offers the greatest intrigue since it’s the only one of the four that affects the outcome for both squads. If the Bucks win they secure the sixth seed. However, by doing so they might have to face the Cavaliers first who would win the tie over the Sixers.

A loss should find the Bucks facing Boston.

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Clearly, the Bucks, Heat and Wizards are seemingly trying to nab the seventh seed (or sixth).  Presumably the thought process is getting seventh would offer a shot at a young Celtics squad missing two stars. Landing in sixth may be tricky because of how hot the Sixers have been (albeit young and inexperienced) plus the possibility it could still end up being Cleveland.

However, if the 76ers stay hot the sixth/seventh seeds offers a path which would likely avoid both the Raptors and Cavaliers until the Eastern Conference Finals.

By night’s end both conference brackets will be set. As outlined above there are several variables for the Thunder though it does seem more likely Utah and OKC will align in the four – five seeds since that scenario presents itself the most frequently.

So, pull up a chair Thunder Nation, grab your favorite bevy and snack and settle in for the long haul this evening. Because, this final night of action is the most dramatic and intriguing in NBA closing night history.