Magic closer to ending playoff drought, Warriors near 1 seed
A look at where things stand in the NBA playoff picture, with five days remaining in the regular season:
The Orlando Magic won 20 of their first 51 games.
They’ve won 20 of their 29 games since.
They’re not in — yet — but the Magic are on the brink of ending the longest playoff drought in the Eastern Conference. Orlando’s 149-113 win over Atlanta on Friday night came in the home regular-season finale for the Magic. In every year since 2012, the home finale has been the last chance for Magic fans to see their club until the following fall.
This time, the Magic might be coming home for Game 3 of the East first round.
“I think the fans are a big part of it, but we’re definitely playing with a lot more purpose and a lot more balance here in this last, whatever it’s been, five or six weeks,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.
Detroit fell from sixth to eighth after losing to Oklahoma City; the Magic went from eighth to sixth after rolling past the Hawks for their ninth consecutive home win. Brooklyn stayed seventh (the Nets were idle), Miami stayed ninth (after a loss in Minnesota) and Charlotte remained 10th (even with a win).
There’s still five teams alive for the last three spots, and oddly, four of them actually control their destiny. Miami would be assured of getting in by winning its final three games. Orlando, Detroit and Brooklyn would also be in if they all win out — Orlando plays Brooklyn on Sunday, and Brooklyn plays Miami on Wednesday, the final night of the regular season.
Charlotte remains in the race, though needs a lot of help.
Golden State is closing in on the No. 1 seed. Denver will be starting the playoffs at home.
There still isn’t a single seed clinched in the Western Conference, but the picture is starting to get clear. Golden State beat Cleveland to cut its magic number for the top seed out West to one, and Denver’s win over Portland ensured that the Nuggets — currently No. 2 in the West standings — cannot fall past the fourth spot regardless of what happens between now and Wednesday.
The Warriors can clinch the top seed Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers remained in sixth even after falling Friday to the Los Angeles Lakers.
— Brooklyn at Milwaukee: Bucks can get to 60 wins, which they would like. Nets would tie Orlando with a win, fall into tie with Detroit with a loss, and Miami is going to be desperately rooting for Milwaukee.
— Philadelphia at Chicago: The 76ers know they cannot fall below No. 4 in the East now, and beating the woebegone Bulls would move them closer to locking up the No. 3 spot.
— Games with no playoff implications: None. Light schedule — it’s Final Four Saturday.
First-round matchups if the season ended Friday ...
East: 1-Milwaukee vs. 8-Detroit, 2-Toronto vs. 7-Brooklyn, 3-Philadelphia vs. 6-Orlando, 4-Boston vs. 5-Indiana.
West: 1-Golden State vs. 8-San Antonio, 2-Denver vs. 7-Oklahoma City, 3-Houston vs. 6-L.A. Clippers, 4-Portland vs. 5-Utah.
NOTE OF THE DAY
Detroit’s Blake Griffin made nine 3-pointers — combined — in his first two full NBA seasons. He made nine on Friday in a loss at Oklahoma City.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“When you have a chance to win a game at this time of year, I’m not messing with that game.” — Orlando coach Steve Clifford, who had his starters in with a big fourth-quarter lead against Atlanta out of respect to the Hawks’ ability to score in bunches.