NBA playoff watch: Sixers nab East’s top seed; Wizards clinch play-in spot

With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and more important — than ever, with almost every game down the stretch having significant postseason implications.

Play-in matchups after Thursday’s games

Play-in games to be held Tuesday through Friday of next week

How the play-in tournament will work

Current NBA standings


Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte Hornets at No. 7 Boston Celtics — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs; loser moves on in play-in

Game 2: No. 10 Washington Wizards at No. 9 Indiana Pacers — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Wizards/Pacers winner at Celtics/Hornets loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Game 1: No. 8 Golden State Warriors at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs; loser moves on in play-in

Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio Spurs at No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Grizzlies/Spurs winner at Lakers/Warriors loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs

Teams that clinched Friday

Already in


Playoff spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

Play-in spots (seeds 7-10): Celtics, Hornets, Pacers


Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets

Play-in spots: Warriors, Grizzlies, Spurs

TBD: Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Lakers

Here’s a breakdown of the key games from Friday and what the results mean for the seedings:



Joel Embiid comes up with a block as Ben Simmons goes all the way for a two-handed jam vs. the Magic.

The top seed in the East is officially settled, and it belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers. With a win over the Magic on Friday, the Sixers have clinched home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, and maybe more importantly, positioned themselves on the opposite side of the bracket from the Nets and Bucks.

It’s the first time the Sixers have been the top seed since 2001, when Allen Iverson led them throughout the playoffs to the NBA Finals against the Lakers.

Who Philly plays in the first round will be determined through the play-in, with the Celtics, Hornets, Pacers and Wizards all in play for the 8-seed.

Taking the top seed is a boost, but not necessarily an accomplishment for the Sixers, with coach Doc Rivers downplaying its importance earlier in the week.

“I don’t look at the No. 1 seed as being this great achievement,” Rivers said. “I just think it’s great to have because of home-court [advantage]. The achievement is winning [the championship].” — Royce Young

With a win against the Cavaliers, the Washington Wizards have settled the final play-in spot for the East, securing at least a top-10 seed and, therefore, eliminating the Chicago Bulls.

It has been a striking turnaround for the Wizards, who on April 5 were 17-32 and outside the East’s playoff picture. Since then, they’ve gone 16-6, which featured a seven-game winning streak, boosting them into the top 10.

With a game to go, there’s still more to play for as the Wizards are a game behind the Hornets and Pacers for the eighth and ninth spots. The difference between No. 8 and No. 9 is huge, obviously, going from a possible one-and-done game to needing to lose two games to be eliminated.

And guess what? The Wizards close the regular season against the Hornets on Sunday, while the Pacers finish with the Lakers (in what is a near must-win for L.A.). The Wizards hold the tiebreaker on the Pacers, which would bump them ahead if Washington closes with a win and the Lakers beat Indiana. The Hornets play the Knicks on Saturday, and with a win, lock up a higher spot than the Wizards by virtue of a 2-1 season series tiebreaker. But should the Hornets lose, it sets up a massive seeding game between Washington and Charlotte. — Young

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