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Thursday Therapy: A Look at the Playoff Picture

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Therapy is here to reassure you that the next time you're on the couch after today, the 2014-15 regular season will, at long last, be over. Let's think about the playoffs!

"Look at all those teams above us in the standings!"
"Look at all those teams above us in the standings!"
USA TODAY Sports Images

Good morning, and welcome to the Therapy couch. At this point, I feel like the less said about the Minnesota Timberwolves' crushing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last night, the better. Eric has your recap over yonder, if you're into that sort of thing.

Let's take today to be thankful for one thing: the NBA playoffs start in under two weeks, and as Timberwolves fans, we have the privilege of watching as relatively unbiased observers for what should be one of the more exciting playoffs in a while. The Western Conference is an utter bloodbath, and while the bottom of the Eastern Conference isn't exactly good, the intrigue of the likely eventual battle between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks should be fascinating to watch. And really, once the playoffs get started, anything can happen.

But first, we have to actually get eight playoff teams set. Let's take a look at where things stand with six days of regular season left.

Eastern Conference

Team Record GB Games Left Clinched?
1. Atlanta Hawks 59-19 -- CHA, @WAS, NYK, @CHI #1 seed, Southeast Division
2. Cleveland Cavaliers 51-27 8.0 BOS, @BOS, DET, WAS #2 seed, Central Division
3. Toronto Raptors 46-32 13.0 @ORL, @MIA, @BOS, CHA top 4 seed, Atlantic Divison
4. Chicago Bulls 46-32 13.0 @MIA, PHI, @BKN, ATL top 5 seed
5. Washington Wizards 45-33 14.0 @BKN, ATL, @IND, @CLE top 5 seed
6. Milwaukee Bucks 38-40 21.0 @NYK, BKN, @PHI, BOS --
7. Boston Celtics 36-42 23.0 @CLE, CLE, TOR, @MIL --
8. Brooklyn Nets 36-42 23.0 WAS, @MIL, CHI, ORL --
Indiana Pacers 35-43 24.0 @DET, OKC, WAS, @MEM
Miami Heat 35-43 24.0 CHI, TOR, ORL, @PHI
Charlotte Hornets 33-45 26.0 @ATL, @DET, HOU, @TOR

The East still has plenty to figure out below Atlanta and Cleveland.

The 3-5 seeds are all still up in the air, which is a game of who wants the Bucks and who wants homecourt against the worst of the three. The battle for the 5 is exclusively between the Bulls and Wizards, as Toronto must be a top 4 seed by virtue of winning their division. Each has two away games at teams in the fight for the 7 and 8 seeds, and two games they should win (although the Bulls losing to the Magic was not a good look). Tiebreakers between these three are as follows:

Scenario Result
if TOR and CHI tied CHI gets higher seed: won season series 4-0
if TOR and WAS tied TOR gets higher seed: won season series 3-0
if WAS and CHI tied WAS (I think!) gets higher seed: season series tied 2-2, conference records tied (29-19), but if they're tied, WAS's will be better (since they're a game behind now)
if TOR, WAS, CHI tied TOR gets 3, CHI gets 4, WAS gets 5: TOR gets best seed as division winner; combined records between three are CHI 6-2, TOR 3-4, WAS 2-5

Then there's the issue of the 6, 7 and 8 seeds. There are still five teams alive for the 7 and 8, although the Hornets are on life support at this point (they're eliminated with one loss and one win from both BOS and BKN). The Pacers have probably the hardest schedule of the four, with games against still-fighting-for-position Memphis and Oklahoma City, but at this point, who knows what could happen. Ready for these tiebreakers? I'm going to assume the Hornets fizzle so I have slightly less to do. There are 26 scenarios, and I'm going to do all of them. (inhales)

Scenario Result
if MIL and BOS tied MIL gets higher seed: clinched season series (currently 2-0)
if MIL and BKN tied

MIL gets higher seed: leads season series 2-1; if BKN wins 4/11, ties season series 2-2 and MIL wins conference record (up by 5 games)

if MIL and IND tied TBD: season series tied 2-2, conference records MIL 27-21, IND 26-24
if MIL and MIA tied MIL gets higher seed: won season series 4-0
if BOS and BKN tied BOS gets higher seed: won season series 3-1
if BOS and IND tied BOS gets higher seed: won season series 3-1
if BOS and MIA tied MIA gets higher seed: won season series 3-1
if BKN and IND tied BKN gets higher seed: won season series 2-1
if BKN and MIA tied MIA gets higher seed: won season series 4-0
if IND and MIA tied IND gets higher seed: won season series 3-1
if MIL, BOS, BKN tied TBD: current combined records MIL 4-1, BOS 3-3, BKN 2-5; if MIL wins either game against other teams, clinches highest seed of the three; BKN locked into lowest of three
if MIL, BOS, IND tied TBD: current combined records MIL 4-2, BOS 3-3, IND 3-5; if BOS wins 4/15, goes to conf. record (MIL currently leads by 3 games); IND locked into lowest of three
if MIL, BOS, MIA tied Order will be MIL, MIA, BOS: current combined records MIL 6-0, MIA 3-5, BOS 1-5
if MIL, BKN, IND tied TBD: current combined records MIL 4-3, BKN 3-3, IND 3-4; if MIL wins 4/12, MIL gets highest seed, IND next (better conf. record); if BKN wins 4/12, BKN gets highest seed, then MIL, then IND.
if MIL, BKN, MIA tied Order will be MIL, MIA, BKN: current combined records MIL 6-1, MIA 4-4, BKN 1-6
if MIL, IND, MIA tied Order will be MIL, IND, MIA: combined records MIL 6-2, IND 5-3, MIA 1-7
if BOS, BKN, IND tied Order will be BOS, BKN, IND: BOS 6-2, BKN 3-4, IND 2-5
if BOS, BKN, MIA tied Order will be MIA, BOS, BKN: MIA 7-1, BOS 4-4, BKN 1-7
if BOS, IND, MIA tied TBD: combined records BOS 4-4, IND 4-4, MIA 4-4; current conf. records IND 26-23, BOS 24-24, MIA 23-25
if BKN, IND, MIA tied Order will be MIA, IND, BKN: combined records MIA 5-3, IND 4-3, BKN 2-5
if MIL, BOS, BKN, IND tied TBD: current combined records MIL 6-3, BOS 6-4, BKN 4-6, IND 4-7: depends on results of MIL/BOS and MIL/BKN games
if MIL, BOS, BKN, MIA tied Order will be MIL, MIA, BOS, BKN: current combined records MIL 8-1, MIA 7-5, BOS 4-6, BKN 2-9
if MIL, BOS, IND, MIA tied Order will be MIL, IND, BOS, MIA: current combined records MIL 8-2, IND 6-6, BOS 4-6, MIA 4-8
if MIL, BKN, IND, MIA tied Order will be MIL, IND, MIA, BKN: current combined records MIL 8-3, IND 6-5, MIA 5-7, BKN 3-7
if BOS, BKN, IND, MIA tied Order will be MIA, BOS, IND, BKN: combined records MIA 8-4, BOS 7-5, IND 5-6, BKN 3-8
if all five tied (possible!) TBD: current combined records MIL 10-3, BOS 7-7, BKN 4-10, IND 7-8, MIA 8-8; MIL locked into 6, BKN locked out of playoffs; if BOS wins 4/15, gets 7 seed; if BOS loses 4/15, MIA gets second highest seed, best conf. record between BOS/IND gets 8 seed (currently: IND 26-24, BOS 24-24)

(exhales) Long story short: ties are typically really good for the Heat, and really, REALLY bad for the Nets. Circle those two games between the Bucks and Nets on Sunday and the Bucks and Celtics on Wednesday. In a lot of scenarios, Boston needs to win that game to get in.

Western Conference

And the best part? The West might actually be crazier, although there's only the one question of which team's going to make the playoffs. The seeding's the key in the West. Here are your current standings:

Team Record GB Games Left Clinched?
1. Golden State Warriors 63-15 -- POR, MIN, MEM, DEN #1 seed, Pacific Division
2. Memphis Grizzlies 53-25 10.0 @UTA, @LAC, @GSW, IND top 6 seed
3. Houston Rockets 53-25 10.0 SAS, NOP, @CHA, UTA top 6 seed
4. Portland Trail Blazers 51-27 12.0 @GSW, UTA, @OKC, @DAL top 4 seed, Northwest Division
5. Los Angeles Clippers 53-26 10.5 MEM, DEN, @PHX top 6 seed
6. San Antonio Spurs 53-26 10.5 @HOU, PHX, @NOP top 6 seed
7. Dallas Mavericks 47-31 16.0 @DEN, @LAL, @UTA, POR #7 seed
8. New Orleans Pelicans 42-36 21.0 PHX, @HOU, @MIN, SAS --
Oklahoma City Thunder 42-36 21.0 SAC, @IND, POR, @MIN

This time we'll go from bottom up. The tiebreaker for the 8 seed is simple: the Pelicans have it, having won the season series with the Thunder 3-1. Oklahoma City must finish with a better record than New Orleans or they're out. Dallas, having gone through a mediocre stretch lately, is locked into the 7 seed. 2-6, though, who knows what's going to happen. The Trail Blazers, benefiting from winning the Northwest Division, can drop no lower than the 4 seed, even though they currently have the sixth best record in the conference. The winner of the Southwest Division will receive the same benefit. Currently that's the Grizzlies, but any of Memphis, Houston, and even San Antonio can storm in and take that top 4 guarantee. Tiebreaker time! As before, there's another lengthy list involved, and another five-way tie is possible! Hooray!

Scenario Result
if MEM and HOU tied TBD: season series tied 2-2; division records MEM 9-7, HOU 7-7; if HOU beats both SAS and NOP, goes to conference record (MEM currently leads by 3 games)
if MEM and POR tied MEM gets higher seed: MEM won season series 4-0
if MEM and LAC tied TBD: MEM leads season series 2-1; if LAC wins 4/11, goes to conf. record (currently tied); if that's tied, goes to record against W.Conf. playoff teams (not doing this much research)
if MEM and SAS tied MEM gets higher seed: season series tied 2-2; MEM wins on either division record or conference record (clinched at least tie in division record, clinched better conference record)
if HOU and POR tied POR gets higher seed: POR won season series 2-1
if HOU and LAC tied TBD: season series tied 2-2; LAC leads conference record by 3 games
if HOU and SAS tied TBD: SAS leads season series 2-1; if HOU wins 4/10, HOU would win on division record
if POR and LAC tied LAC gets higher seed: LAC won season series 3-1
if POR and SAS tied POR gets higher seed: POR won season series 3-1
if LAC and SAS tied LAC gets higher seed: season series tied 2-2; LAC clinched better conference record
if MEM, HOU, POR tied Order will be MEM, HOU, POR: combined record MEM 6-2, HOU 3-4, POR 2-5 (if for division, MEM/HOU tie would be broken first)
if MEM, HOU, LAC tied TBD: current combined record MEM 4-3, HOU 4-4, LAC 3-4; if MEM wins 4/11, order is MEM, HOU, LAC; if LAC wins 4/11, goes to conf. record, HOU likely locked into lowest seed (if for division, MEM/HOU tie would be broken first)
if MEM, HOU, SAS tied TBD: current combined record SAS 4-3, MEM 4-4, HOU 3-4; if SAS wins 4/10, order is SAS, MEM, HOU; if HOU wins 4/10, goes to div. record, SAS locked into lowest seed, MEM likely highest seed (and division win)
if MEM, POR, LAC tied Order will be MEM, LAC, POR: current combined record MEM 6-1, LAC 4-3, POR 1-7
if MEM, POR, SAS tied Order will be MEM, POR, SAS: current combined record MEM 6-2, POR 3-5, SAS 3-5; goes to POR/SAS tiebreak, which POR wins (if for division, MEM/SAS tie would be broken first)
if MEM, LAC, SAS tied TBD: current combined record MEM 4-3, SAS 4-4, LAC 3-4; if MEM wins 4/11, order is MEM, SAS, LAC; if LAC wins 4/11, goes to conf. record, SAS locked into lowest seed (if for division, MEM/SAS tie would be broken first)
if HOU, POR, LAC tied Order will be LAC, POR, HOU: combined record LAC 5-3, POR 3-4, HOU 3-4; goes to POR/HOU tiebreak, which POR wins
if HOU, POR, SAS tied TBD: current combined record POR 5-2, HOU 3-3, SAS 3-4; POR gets highest seed, winner of HOU/SAS 4/10 gets next highest seed (if for division, HOU/SAS tie would be broken first)
if HOU, LAC, SAS tied TBD: current combined record SAS 4-3, LAC 4-4, HOU 3-4; if SAS wins 4/10, order is SAS, LAC, HOU; if HOU wins 4/10, goes to conf. record, order is LAC, HOU, SAS (if for division, HOU/SAS tie would be broken first)
if POR, LAC, SAS tied Order will be LAC, POR, SAS: combined record LAC 5-3, POR 4-4, SAS 3-5
if MEM, HOU, POR, LAC tied Order will be MEM, LAC, HOU, POR: current combined record MEM 8-3, LAC 6-5, HOU 5-6, POR 3-8 (if for division, HOU/MEM tie would be broken first)
if MEM, HOU, POR, SAS tied TBD: current combined record MEM 8-4, HOU 4-6, POR 5-6, SAS 5-6 (HOU/SAS/MEM tie would be broken first, winner gets highest seed as division winner)
if MEM, HOU, LAC, SAS tied TBD: current combined record MEM 6-5, SAS 6-5, HOU 5-6, LAC 5-6 (HOU/SAS/MEM tie would be broken first, winner gets highest seed as division winner)
if MEM, POR, LAC, SAS tied Order will be MEM, LAC, SAS, POR: current combined record MEM 8-3, LAC 6-5, SAS 5-7, POR 4-8 (if for division, SAS/MEM tie would be broken first)
if HOU, POR, LAC, SAS tied TBD: current combined record LAC 7-5, POR 6-5, SAS 5-6, HOU 4-6; LAC highest seed, POR next highest, winner of SAS/HOU 4/10 next highest (if for division, SAS/HOU tie would be broken first)
if all five tied (also possible!) TBD: current combined record MEM 10-5, LAC 8-7, SAS 7-8 HOU 6-8, POR 6-9 (HOU/SAS/MEM tie would be broken first, winner gets highest seed as division winner)

Confused yet? Me too!

So, let's make it a contest. Prediction time in the comments! Three parts:

1. List your 2-6 seeds in the Western Conference in order.

2. Who gets the 8 seed in the West?

3. List your 3-8 seeds in the Eastern Conference in order.

Games are fun. Basketball is fun. Tiebreakers are fun. Who likes fun? Song of the day's all about fun today. If you're not familiar with 2Cellos yet, get ready.