The standings stakes are getting more intense with each day as the playoffs get a little closer. A few East teams — namely the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and Charlotte Hornets — have played as many as 70 games, leaving just a dozen remaining.
This means we’re starting to see some “e” markings in the standings, indicating some teams already eliminated from even play-in contention. Soon enough, an “x” or a “y” will show up, indicating playoff positioning, all while mathematical possibilities get a bit more mathematical.
Just a few more wins would clinch the top seed in the West for Denver, but they’re having trouble finding wins at the moment. Here’s more on them in their most recent loss:
Brooklyn squeaks out 122-120 win in Denver
After scoring 25 points on 7-16 shooting, Mikal Bridges has scored 25+ in seven out of 13 games since joining the Nets. They’re also 5-1 over their past six games during which Bridges is shooting 19-39 (48.7%) from three. One of the first made shots from Bridges was assisted by Spencer Dinwiddie, who finished with a career-high 16 assists.
The Nets still have 3.5 games behind them before they reach the play-in game, while Denver, on a three-game losing streak, is watching their lead on the rest of the West slowly slip away with now 5.0 games over No. 2. Don’t blame Nikola Jokic for the losing streak though; he’s tallied triple doubles in the last two losses, including a 35/20/11 night in the loss to Brooklyn.
Cavs come back from multiple big deficits in 114-108 win over Hornets
Cleveland dealt with a 14-point first quarter deficit, 10-point second quarter deficit, and a 16-point third quarter deficit before using a 33-19 fourth quarter to assert themselves late, albeit not too late. Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley each scored 10 points in the final frame, combining for more points than the Hornets did as a team.
Sixers go wire-to-wire in 112-93 domination of Wizards for fifth straight win
Joel Embiid’s MVP case is getting stronger by the day, especially now that he’s strung together six straight games of 30+ points, including five straight wins. He continues to lead the league in scoring at 33.4 points per game.
Pelicans lead by as much as 39 in 127-110 win over Blazers
Trey Murphy is flashing some real, offensive weapon potential this season; his points per game shot up from 5.4 as a rookie to 13.3 this season, which is only helped by the career-high 41 points he finished with on Sunday.
Pelicans are still holding on to their playoff hopes, tied with three other teams for #9 in the West. Portland, who was playing without Dame Lillard, is nearing obsoletion, a full 2.0 games out of play-in contention.
Jalen Williams leads Thunder to play-in spot after beating Spurs 102-90
OKC rookie Jalen Williams notched his second career double double, finishing Sunday’s win with 21 points (7-18 shooting) and 10 assists, and even flirted with a triple double with his seven rebounds. He was a +15 for the game while no other starter was better than +3.
Another one of the OKC rookies, Ousmane Dieng, scored a career-high 17 points in his 28 minutes. The Thunder, one of the four teams tied for #9 in the West, have also been getting good run from deadline addition Dario Saric, scoring in double-digits in five of his last eight games.
Knicks survive late Lakers push, win 112-108
A tightly contested game, neither team led by more than 10 at any point, and every quarter was within 5 points. RJ Barrett scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth, but it was Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell taking centerstage for the night, especially in the first half. Each scored 33 points on the night, getting 25 and 23 of their points respectively in the first 24 minutes.