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A look at where things stand in the NBA playoff picture Brad
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, with five days remaining in the regular season:


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The top two seeds are locked up: Toronto is No. 1 going into the Eastern
Conference playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and Boston will
open the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

Everything else is unclear.

Philadelphia (49-30) now leads in the race for the No. 3 spot, passing
Cleveland (49-31) by beating the Cavaliers 132-130 on Friday night. The 76ers,
who haven’t been a top-three seed in the East since their run to the NBA Finals
in 2001, would finish third if they end the season with wins against Dallas,
Atlanta and Milwaukee.

The Cavaliers have two games left, both against New York. So if Philly slips
even once Mallex
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, Cleveland could return to No. 3 by sweeping the

Indiana (47-33) still has a chance at No. 3; to get there, the Pacers have to
win out and have both the Cavaliers and 76ers lose out. That seems unlikely, and
Indiana is probably heading for the No. 5 spot.

Miami, even after a bad loss in New York, controls its fate in the race for
No. 6. Milwaukee is No. 7 for now, and Washington – a loser of four straight,
including a head-scratcher against Atlanta on Friday – has slipped to No. 8.



Five days left Alex
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, five spots left to clinch, and six seeds left to

A frantic finish is coming to the West.

Portland controls the race for the No. 3 seed, and Utah knows that if it wins
out the worst it can finish is No. 4 – which is astounding, considering it got
off to a 19-28 start and was 10 games out of the fourth spot.

New Orleans (45-34) beat Phoenix to jump two spots to No. 5, and Minnesota
(45-35) topped the Los Angeles Lakers to remain a half-game ahead of Denver for
No. 8. Those two results mean four teams have exactly 45 wins going into
Saturday, with Denver currently at 44 wins and the Los Angeles Clippers still
able to get to 45 if they win out.


Some clarity might … finally … come to the West.

– Denver at L.A. Clippers: The Clippers have to win out, or the season ends.
Denver must try to match that desperation.

– Milwaukee at New York: Milwaukee is 10-12 since the All-Star break. Some
momentum might help the playoff cause.

– Oklahoma City at Houston: Means nothing to Rockets. Means plenty to
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, who still could get home-court.

– New Orleans at Golden State: The Warriors embarrassed themselves at Indiana
on Thursday. Will this be more of the same?

– Portland at San Antonio: The Spurs are trying for a 21st consecutive
playoff spot, and the Blazers are trying to lock up the No. 3 seed.

– Brooklyn at Chicago has no playoff implication.


First-round matchups if the season ended Friday …

East: 1-Toronto vs. 8-Washington, 2-Boston vs. 7-Milwaukee, 3-Philadelphia
vs. 6-Miami, 4-Cleveland vs. 5-Indiana.

West: 1-Houston vs. 8-Minnesota, 2-Golden State vs. 7-Oklahoma City,
3-Portland vs. 6-San Antonio Cheap
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, 4-Utah vs. 5-New Orleans.


Philadelphia has a chance to set an NBA record – the longest winning streak
to end a regular season.

The 76ers have won 13 straight and have three games left. Win them all, and
they would top the 15-game season-ending stretch by the Rochester Royals in

The last double-digit streak to end a season was posted by San Antonio in
2011-12, when the Spurs won their final 10 games. Philly coach Brett Brown was
an assistant under Gregg Popovich on that Spurs team.


”You’ve got to go through whoever it is anyway.” – Cleveland coach Tyronn
Lue, asked about the Eastern Conference seeding jumble.

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