Detroit Pistons still have work to do to earn playoff spot
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
A look at where things stand in the NBA playoff picture, with three days remaining in the regular season:
Finally, a lot of clarity.
On Sunday, two of the remaining three spots were grabbed. Three more seeds were locked in, as was the first official matchup for when the playoffs start this weekend.
Orlando, in for the first time since 2012.
Brooklyn, in for the first time since 2015.
Detroit, not in yet. Charlotte, still with a chance. Miami, down to the slimmest chance imaginable.
Milwaukee was already the No. 1 seed, Toronto was the No. 2 seed — and now, a whole lot more is known after a very long, very hectic Sunday. Philadelphia will be the No. 3 seed for the second straight year. Boston is the No. 4 seed and will open against No. 5 Indiana, in the first matchup that is locked into place.
Detroit is in the driver’s seat for the last spot. Charlotte improved its chances after beating the Pistons on Sunday. Miami also has life, though needs a whole lot of things to break its way and no longer controls its own destiny after an overtime loss in Toronto. The Heat need to win both of their remaining games and get a ton of help.
Brooklyn clinched by winning in Indiana and sweeping a road-road back-to-back that started Saturday in Milwaukee. Orlando went into Boston and prevailed, winning its way in and clinching the Southeast Division title for good measure. Steve Clifford’s first season as coach of the Magic is now, officially, a banner one.
The road to the Western Conference title now goes through Oracle Arena.
Golden State, the two-time defending NBA champions, wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the West playoffs by beating the Los Angeles Clippers in what might turn out to be a first-round pairing.
The Clippers fell from sixth place to eighth place, getting leaped by both Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The Thunder and Spurs both won on Sunday and are now sixth and seventh, respectively.
Denver’s gap over Houston was sliced to a half-game; the Nuggets rested three stars and lost in Portland, while the Rockets made an NBA-record 27 3-pointers and rolled past Phoenix. The win over the Nuggets kept the Blazers in fourth out West.
Utah’s seven-game winning streak was snapped by the Los Angeles Lakers, and home-court for Round 1 might be out of realistic reach now for the Jazz.