Yesterday was full of insanity when it came to the NBA playoffs picture. The Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder to maintain a stunning turn around after it felt like they had no shot. The rest of the Eastern Conference meanwhile has continued to sputter about leaving the Hornets in the perfect spot to snipe away a spot from one of the lower halves struggling teams.
With the Hornets surprising late surge there’s a very real possibility of them making the playoffs which means everybody needs to be up to date on how to properly watch those standings. Obviously Charlotte needs to win games, but since they currently sit in 10th place they’ll need some luck from the teams ahead of them to get that oh so coveted playoff spot. The Hornets have never made the playoffs two years in a row since the franchise’s return in 2004. So making it this year would be a huge deal, and if they get in well anything can happen. This group looked dominant early in the season. Maybe that’s the team that comes out and shocks someone in the first round.
Here are how the tiebreakers and standings shakeup right now.
One game back of Miami and Indiana
The Hornets shouldn’t be here right now. After starting off the year on a tear they fell off a cliff after Christmas. From December 25 to the end of February the Hornets went 9-21. That they are in the race for the playoff speaks volumes to the incompetency of the teams around them and shows that winning a lot early on helps a lot.
Currently the Hornets are a game back of Miami and Indiana in the loss column. This means they need both of them to lose at least one more game, and for the Hornets to not lose at all, to even tie for the eight seed. Is that doable? Yes, because the Hornets play Miami one more time before the season’s over. Charlotte also has clinched tiebreaker over the Heat. The one with the Pacers is weird and probably won’t be decided until the end of the season. It’s based on conference record and both of them still have games to play.
The biggest challenge for Charlotte will be their brutal finishing schedule with games against the Wizards, Celtics, Hawks, and Bucks. If the Hornets want to make the playoffs they will need to beat playoff teams to do it. What better way to test them?
Tied for eight, but behind on tiebreaker
The Pacers are in a rough spot right now. They’ve fallen out of the playoffs, Paul George doesn’t sound particularly happy, and their tiebreaker situation isn’t pretty. Currently their tiebreaker with Charlotte favors the Hornets while both Miami and Chicago have advantage over them. The Pacers will need to grab a playoff spot outright if they want in and that’s not going to be easy with how close the race is. They had a great chance to beat the Cavaliers Sunday night and gain sole possession of the eight spot, but they fell short in double overtime.
Indiana has lost four straight. Their upcoming schedule is doable, but not easy in the slightest. They have two gimmes against the Magic and feisty Sixers, but they have to play the Raptors, Bucks, and Hawks in that same stretch. All of those teams are beatable, but considering what state they’re in right now it’s not looking good for their playoff chances.
Tied for eight, ahead on tiebreaker
The Heat, like Charlotte, definitely shouldn’t be here right now. They were brutal to start the season and with injuries to so many key players they looked dead in the water. Yet a late season surge has put them barely holding on to a playoff spot with potential to move up. They own tiebreakers over both Chicago and Indiana, but have no chance at gaining tiebreaker over Charlotte. They’re currently sitting in the eight spot one game ahead of Charlotte thanks to that tiebreaker over Indiana.
Miami’s finishing schedule is absolutely brutal. They have to play Charlotte and then the Wizards twice, Raptors, and Cavaliers. That’s a team racing them for the same playoff spot and three of the top four seeds in the conference. If they can catch a couple of them resting they might get lucky, but this is a tough obstacle to overcome even with so many tiebreaker advantages.
One game ahead of eight, one game behind six
Ugh, the Bulls are definitely going to make the playoffs and absolutely nobody is going to be happy with it. Nobody likes watching them this year not even their own fans. They have tiebreaker over Miami, Indiana, Charlotte, and potentially Atlanta depending how the rest of the season shakes out. They’re a game behind the Hawks for the six seed, and while they’re only one game ahead of the eight spot because they have tiebreaker it may as well be two. Same with the Hornets, who are two back, but are essentially three games back due to tiebreaker. The only way Chicago is missing out is if they lose a ton of games down the stretch, and Jimmy Butler isn’t going to let that happen.
Their end of season schedule is laughably easy. The Knicks, Sixers, Magic, and the Nets twice. Just circle Chicago in as a playoff team and let’s move on. However, it would be hilarious if they went full Bulls and lose out to miss the playoffs. The way this season has gone for them it wouldn’t be shocking.
One game ahead of seven, two games ahead of eight
This was supposed to be a list of playoff teams relevant to the Hornets, and before last night they wouldn’t have been on this list. However, the Hawks have sneakily been plummeting for awhile now. They’ve only won two of their last 11 and yesterday, in the return of Paul Millsap, lost to the nets. This team is not good right now and while they will probably make the playoffs they’re someone to keep an eye on. If things are as bad as they look then the Hawks could continue their free fall past the eight spot.
In good news for the Hawks, they have a good conference record meaning they have a solid chance at owning most tiebreakers if they split the season series. They even get a chance to win one over Indiana outright before the season’s end. The bad news is they have to play Charlotte, Cleveland twice, and Boston as well. There are no gimmes there. Paul Millsap is back and healthy so he might save them, but Atlanta is very much in a dangerous spot.
For reference on how tiebreakers work head to NBA.com for the full list.