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Barely more than a week remains before the regular season comes to an end and 16 teams advance to the tournament known as the NBA Playoffs.

There are several key games still to be played that have implications for the seeding of teams in both conferences but the majority of the Playoff teams have been determined, especially in the Western Conference.

In the Eastern Conference four teams have clinched Playoff spots – Boston, Cleveland, Toronto and Washington. Those teams are tightly bunched with just four games separating currently top seeded Boston and fourth seeded Washington.

But there is a six-game gap between the Wizards and fifth seeded Milwaukee and thus those top four teams have clinched the home court for the first round of the Playoffs.

Miami and Indiana are tied for the eighth seed in the East but just three games separate that pair from the Bucks with Atlanta and Chicago in between. Both Charlotte and Detroit remain alive for the Playoffs, trailing the Heat and Pacers by just one and two games respectively.

Thus seven teams are separated by just five games for the final four Playoff spots, which fills the final week of the season with possibilities. Seeded fifth, Milwaukee started this week with a 40-37 record, meaning there could be multiple teams making the Playoffs in the East with losing records!

Fourth seeded Washington was 46-31, 15 games above .500. It would be a major upset if the Celtics, Cavaliers, Raptors and Wizards did not make it to the second round of the Playoffs.

But this being sports, we’ve learned anything is possible when the stakes are meaningful. Seven of the eight Western Conference Playoff teams are known with Golden State now having extended to a 3.5 game lead over San Antonio for the top seed.

Houston is virtually assured of being seeded third with their five game edge over Utah. The Jazz started this week with a half-game lead over the LA Clippers for the fourth seed with the Clippers three games ahead of Oklahoma City.

The Thunder is 1.5 games ahead of Memphis and the seventh seeded Grizzlies have also clinched a Playoffs berth and were three games ahead of the current eighth seed, Portland.

After slumbering though most of the season the Trailblazers have been playing their best basketball of the season since the start of March, going 14-3 SU and 13-4 ATS, including starting this week having won and covered six in a row heading into Monday night’s make-up at Minnesota. Their recent run had the Blazers starting this week with a .500 record, 38-38.

Only Denver and New Orleans have a mathematical chance to catch Portland for that final Playoff spot but the Blazers have a favorable schedule to end the regular season, playing their final four games at home.

After showing signs of vulnerability by losing five of seven games from late February through mid-March, Golden State has asserted itself as clearly the team to beat with their current 11 game winning streak during which the Warriors have gone 8-2-1 ATS.

The most recent five games of this streak have been wins over Playoff-bound teams, including a pair of wins over third seeded Houston sandwiched around a win at second seeded San Antonio in which Golden State overcame a sloppy start. The Warriors were down by 22 points in the first quarter yet managed to cut the deficit to 3 points at the half, ultimately winning by a dozen, 110-98.

That win was their first over the Spurs this season after San Antonio had beaten the Warriors by 29 points at Golden State to open the season and by 22 in their next meeting, just three weeks ago, at home.

The Warriors are clearly in Playoff condition as they need to regain the title they lost to Cleveland last season; those teams are still favored to meet in the NBA Finals for a third straight season. But there are major concerns with Cleveland as the Cavs have played poorly for an extended period of time.

After winning 10 of 12 that ended with a win in their first game out of the All Star break, the Cavs have gone a very mediocre 9-11 SU and an ugly 6-13-1 ATS since. Cleveland was favored in six of those 11 losses. LeBron James’ frustration is evident as he’s called out teammates and coach Tyron Lue seems to have lost whatever grip he may have had on his team.

The Cavs are still the most talented team in the East but they are not the intimidating force they were over the second half of last season and through much of the Playoffs. They may well be small underdogs when they play at Boston on Wednesday night in what could determine the top spot in the East.

As noted above, tied in the loss column, Boston started this week a half game ahead of Cleveland for the top seed. This will be the second of back-to-back games for Cleveland, which hosted Orlando Tuesday night, while Boston last played early Sunday, cruising past the Knicks in New York.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend that could impact the Playoff teams and/or seedings.

Miami at Toronto (Fri.): Toronto has won eight of nine through Sunday as the Raptors seek to peak for the Playoffs. Miami is not as strong offensively as is Toronto and should try to slow the tempo and keep this game in the 90s, giving the Heat their best chance to get the outright win. As such, this game handicaps as following the path of their three prior meetings. UNDER

Utah at Portland (Sat.): Portland is in much better form as they’ve had to make up much ground just to be in their current position. Tuesday’s result may affect the line for this game but should not affect the situation as Portland will either be looking to avenge a Tuesday loss or continue to ride the momentum wave they’ve been riding since early March. PORTLAND

Cleveland at Atlanta (Sun): The Hawks won the first meeting in Cleveland in early November. The teams did not meet again for four months with Cleveland winning in Atlanta on March 3. Here we will use the results of Friday’s meeting to determine the play for this contest. The play will be on the team that lost their meeting Friday.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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