Play-In Picture: Key results set up photo finish

The State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament picture after the games of May 13.

Here’s what we know with 72 hours before the 2020-21 regular season ends: the Celtics are seventh, and the Spurs are 10th.

That’s it. How?

Nearly everything that could have clarified the Play-In Picture on Thursday wound up muddying the waters even more.

Washington needed Chicago to lose to officially clinch a Play-In spot and see the Bulls drop out of the race. Chicago won.

Philadelphia could have clinched the best record in the East. They lost to a resilient Miami Heat team, an outcome that also prevented Atlanta’s win over Orlando from being enough to clinch the Southeast Division.

Phoenix could have locked up no worse than second place with a win and a Clippers loss, but LA took care of business against the Hornets.

And because of all those outcomes, all the mini-races at the top, middle, and bottom of the standings in both conferences will come down to the wire.

If the State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament started today: Eastern Conference

  • East 7 (Celtics) vs. East 8 (Hornets) | Winner gets No. 7 overall seed
  • East 9 (Pacers) vs. East 10 (Wizards) | Loser is eliminated
  • Loser 7/8 vs. Winner 9/10 | Winner gets No. 8 overall seed

Western Conference

  • West 7 (Lakers) vs. West 8 (Warriors) | Winner gets No. 7 overall seed
  • West 9 (Grizzlies) vs. West 10 (Spurs) | Loser is eliminated
  • Loser 7/8 vs. Winner 9/10 | Winner gets No. 8 overall seed

Playoff picture | Current standings | Play-In Tournament FAQ | NBA playoff history


4. Atlanta Hawks (–)

Atlanta Hawks LogoRecord: 40-31 Games Ahead (5th): 0.5 *Holds tiebreaker vs. MIA; NYK hold tiebreaker Last Result: 116-93 W vs. ORL Next Opponent: vs. HOU on Sunday   The Hawks are doing everything they can to keep the Knicks and Heat at bay. They can assure themselves of no worse than fifth by winning their season finale vs. the rebuilding Rockets on Sunday. Be assured they’ll be keeping on eye on Miami and New York until then, as both those teams have an additional game to play.  

5. Miami Heat ()

Miami Heat logoRecord: 39-31 Games Ahead (6th): — *Holds tiebreaker vs. NYK Games Back (4th): 0.5 *ATL holds tiebreaker Last Result: 106-94 W vs. PHI Next Opponent: @ MIL on Saturday Miami has the hardest road remaining to avoid a 3-6 first-round matchup with Milwaukee, but they took a huge step toward doing that with a vintage win over the 76ers. Miami’s toughness was humorously personified by Udonis Haslem’s first appearance of the season … which lasted all of three minutes before he was ejected for an altercation with Dwight Howard.The Heat’s road is still rocky — they have the Bucks on Saturday and Atlanta holds the head-to-head tiebreaker — but they’re still right in the mix.  

6. New York Knicks ()

New York logoRecord: 39-31 Games Back (5th): — *Holds tiebreaker vs. ATL; MIA holds tiebreaker Last Result: 102-93 W vs. SAS Next Opponent: vs. CHA on Saturday The Knicks needed a second-half comeback against a feisty Spurs team to stay in the three-team race for fourth. They got a much-needed bounce-back game from R.J. Barrett, who saw his 12-game streak of double-figure scoring snapped on Tuesday. His 24 points were huge on Thursday, especially with New York holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hawks.  


7. Boston Celtics (–)

Boston Celtics logo Record: 35-35 Games Ahead (8th): 2.0 Last Result: 102-94 L @ CLE Next Opponent: @ MIN on Saturday   The Celtics’ fate is sealed after Thursday’s other outcomes. Boston is fixed into seventh place, where they’ll face either Hornets or Pacers depending on how the rest of the season plays out. Boston won its season series with both teams 2-1 — all with Jaylen Brown, who is now out for the season following wrist surgery.  

8. Charlotte Hornets (–)

Charlotte Hornets logoRecord: 33-37 Games Ahead (9th): — *Holds tiebreaker vs. IND, WAS Games Back (7th): 2.0 *BOS holds tiebreaker Last Result: 113-90 L vs. LAC Next Opponent: @ NYK on Saturday   Charlotte could never get going against an elite Clippers defense that had its own incentive to play well. They’ll get more of the same energy from New York and Washington (both on the road), but the Hornets will be desperate in their own right to avoid the single elimination path of ninth place.  

9. Indiana Pacers (–)

Indiana Pacers logoRecord: 33-37 Games Ahead (10th): 1.0 *WAS holds tiebreaker Games Back (8th): — *CHA holds tiebreaker Last Result: 142-133 L vs. MIL Next Opponent: vs. LAL on Saturday   Indiana lost a huge chance to gain ground on the faltering Hornets. Normally 133 points and 21 makes from 3-point range would be enough, but the Bucks were even more proficient on Thursday. Now they have just two chances left to jump ahead of Charlotte, which holds the tiebreaker over the Pacers.  

10. Washington Wizards (–)

Washington Wizards logoRecord: 32-38 Games Ahead (11th): 2.0 Games Back (8th): 1.0 *Holds tiebreaker vs. IND; CHA holds tiebreaker Last Result: 120-116 L @ ATL Next Opponent: vs. CLE on Friday   The Wizards needed only to win once in their final three games — against Atlanta, Cleveland or Charlotte — to secure a spot in the Play-In Tournament. After taking an L at the hands of the Hawks, the door remains open for the Bulls to charge through, even as a potential climb to 8th place remains possible.  


11. Chicago Bulls ()

Chicago Bulls logoRecord: 30-40 Games Back (10th): 2.0 Last Result: 114-102 L vs. Raptors Next Opponent: @ BKN on Saturday The Bulls’ only route into the Play-In Tournament is to sweep their final two games … and hope Washington’s slide tumbles into a season-ending snowball. Regardless, Chicago has won four of its last five, offering glimmers of hope for the future.  




5. Dallas Mavericks (🔼)

Dallas Mavericks logoRecord: 41-29 Games Ahead (7th): 1.0 *Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL, POR holds tiebreaker Last Result: 125-107 W vs. NOP Next Opponent: vs. TOR on Friday Portland’s Thursday-night loss to Phoenix helped the Mavericks most of all. Only an absolute collapse — losing both its final games and the Lakers winning their final two — would see Dallas slip into seventh and the Play-In Tournament. Playing the already-eliminated Raptors on Friday makes that outcome unlikely, but not impossible.  

6. Portland Trail Blazers (🔽)

Portland Trail Blazers logoRecord: 41-30 Games Ahead (7th): 0.5 *Holds tiebreaker vs. LAL Games Back (5th): 0.5 *Holds tiebreaker vs. DAL Last Result: 118-117 L @ PHX Next Opponent: @ PHX on Thursday The Blazers very nearly clinched a top-six spot, only to see a pair of Devin Booker free throws put that goal in a precarious position. Portland must now win its season finale against Denver to guarantee remaining above the Play-In. A loss would put their fate in the hands of the Mavericks and Lakers.  


7. Los Angeles Lakers (–)

Los Angeles Lakers logoRecord: 40-30 Games Ahead (11th): 9.0 Games Back (6th): 0.5 *POR, DAL hold tiebreakers Last Result: 124-122 W vs. HOU Next Opponent: @ IND on Saturday Portland’s defeat to Phoenix gives life to the Lakers’ chances of avoiding the Play-In and even allows a single scenario in which L.A. leap-frogs to fifth (if the Lakers win out and the Mavericks and Blazers go a combined 0-3). Anything that sees the Lakers finish sixth or higher requires them to win both their final games and get help from Dallas or Portland. The first step toward that begins Saturday against a Pacers team desperate to advance from ninth to eighth.  

8. Golden State Warriors ()

Golden State Warriors logoRecord: 37-33 Games Ahead (9th): — *Hold tiebreaker vs. MEM Games Back (7th): 3.0 Last Result: 122-116 W vs. PHO Next Opponent: vs. NOP on Friday   Golden State’s plan got a lot simpler after Memphis’ come-from-behind win over the Kings. Their season finale against the Grizzlies team currently tied with them will decide the head-to-head tiebreaker — and therefore eighth place. Whoever wins finishes eighth, while the loser slides to ninth.  

9. Memphis Grizzlies ()

Memphis Grizzlies logoRecord: 37-33 Games Ahead (10th): 4.0 Games Back (8th): — *GSW holds tiebreaker Last Result: 116-110 W vs. SAC Next Opponent: vs. SAC on Friday   Memphis’ dramatic comeback win over the Kings sets up a winner-takes-eighth season finale with the Warriors on Sunday — regardless of what happens in their respective Saturday matchups. That’s possible because that Sunday clash will decide the tiebreaker between the Grizzlies and Warriors. The stakes are clear — win, and get two Play-In shots at making the final eight. Lose, and it’s a single-elimination affair.  

10. San Antonio Spurs (–)

San Antionio Spurs logoRecord: 33-37 Games Ahead (11th): 2.0 *Holds tiebreaker vs. SAC Games Back (9th): 4.0 Last Result: 102-98 L @ NYK Next Opponent: vs. PHX on Saturday   The Spurs led by as many as 17 in the second half before suffering what could have been a nail-biting loss to the Knicks. Instead, they can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to the Kings’ own defeat to the Grizzlies. San Antonio is now locked in at 10th place, rendering their last two games against Phoenix relatively meaningless. The Spurs will face the loser of the Sunday’s Grizzlies-Warriors finale in a win-or-go-home Play-In battle.  


11. Sacramento Kings (–)

Sacramento Kings logoRecord: 31-39 Games Back (10th): 2.0 *SAS holds tiebreaker Last Result: 122-106 W vs. OKC Next Opponent: @ MEM on Thursday   For a brief moment, the stars appeared to be aligning for the postseason-starved Kings. San Antonio had lost, and the Kings held a late eight-point lead over the Grizzlies. Win that game, and Sacramento had a very real shot at the Spurs losing their final two games to Phoenix and maybe (if they themselves won out) sneak into the Play-In. Instead, the Kings will miss the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season, the longest active postseason drought in the league, and tied with the Clippers (1977-91) for longest in league history.