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NBA playoff matchups set: Suns clinch last West spot

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The NBA playoff picture is set after a whirlwind final day of the regular season where all 30 teams were in action. Heading into Sunday, 15 out of the 20 playoff and play-in tournament seeds were undetermined.

In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder captured the No. 1 seed, sending the defending champion Denver Nuggets to No. 2 and Minnesota Timberwolves to third place in the conference. The Phoenix Suns also lapped the New Orleans Pelicans to nab the final spot outside of the play-in tourney. Meanwhile in the East, the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers secured the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, respectively, pushing the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat into the play-in tournament.

The play-in tournament begins Tuesday and features the teams seeded seventh to 10th in each conference.

Western Conference play-in tournament

Game Date Home Away Time (ET)
Game 1 April 16 Pelicans Lakers 7:30 p.m.
Game 2 April 16 Kings Warriors 10 p.m.
Game 3 April 19 Loser of Game 1 Winner of Game 2 TBD

In a preview of Tuesday's matchup, the Lakers blew out the Pelicans in New Orleans on Sunday to maintain the eighth seed, while the team from the Big Easy lost the sixth seed due to the Suns' clutch win over the Timberwolves. The Pelicans slipped in the last few weeks, dropping from the No. 5 seed. A win for either the Lakers or Pelicans would guarantee a first-round tilt against the Nuggets.

A postseason rematch from last campaign, the Kings host the Warriors in the do-or-die contest. Both squads had underwhelming seasons, as the Kings struggled to find consistent wing players beside De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis one season removed from their first playoff berth since 2006. For Golden State, it marks its return to the play-in tournament for the first time since 2021.

Eastern Conference play-in tournament

Game Date Home Away Time (ET)
Game 1 April 17 76ers Heat 7 p.m.
Game 2 April 17 Bulls Hawks 9:30 p.m.
Game 3 April 19 Loser of Game 1 Winner of Game 2 TBD

The Philadelphia 76ers host the Miami Heat in the first play-in tournament contest. On the line will be a playoff matchup against the New York Knicks, while the loser will have one more chance to qualify for a postseason berth to face the Boston Celtics. Both teams have major stakes this campaign, with the Sixers trying to re-capture their form previous to reigning MVP Joel Embiid's meniscus injury. The Heat are attempting another deep postseason run after making the Finals as a No. 8 seed last campaign.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks will face off in the lower-seeded matchup. Both squads made the play-in tournament last campaign, but only the Hawks were successful in making the postseason. Trae Young's return from a finger injury might push Atlanta over the edge this time around.

Western Conference

Bart Young / National Basketball Association / Getty
  • No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 TBD
  • No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 TBD
  • No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 6 Phoenix Suns
  • No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks

There are some mouthwatering first-round matchups out West. Entering the day, the Thunder, Timberwolves, and Nuggets were tied for the top seed. The Thunder came out on top with a blowout win over the Mavs, while the Suns pushed the T-Wolves down to the third seed in a taster of the team's postseason series. The first pairing of teams that were confirmed to face off are two well-known foes: the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. Both franchises went on scorching runs this campaign, setting up an exciting rematch of their opening-round series in 2020 and 2021, both of which the Clippers won.

Eastern Conference

Joe Murphy / NBA / Getty
  • No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 TBD
  • No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 TBD
  • No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Indiana Pacers
  • No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Orlando Magic

The Boston Celtics have been locked into the No. 1 slot for weeks and will host the last team standing from the play-in round. The Knicks leapfrogged the Bucks for the second seed, pushing Milwaukee into a battle against its budding rivals: the Pacers. Another feel-good story this campaign, the Magic, clinched their first postseason berth since 2020 with a first-round battle upcoming against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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