Checking in on every playoff and play-in race as final week of season begins

Denver Nuggets v Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets v Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages
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Eastern Conference 6-8

Down lower in the standings, we’ve got a tight three-way battle for the sixth seed, and the final non-play-in spot.

6. Indiana Pacers 45-34

7. Philadelphia 76ers 44-35

8. Miami Heat 43-35

This race has huge stakes as none of these teams want to face single elimination play-in games and the prospect of missing the playoffs entirely. But that’s going to be the reality for two of these teams.

All three have high expectations. The Heat made the NBA Finals last year, losing to the Nuggets, and expect to be playing into June each season. The Sixers have the league’s MVP, another all-star in Tyrese Maxey, and were the 2 seed before Embiid got hurt. This team has title expectations as well.

The Pacers may not quite be in championship or bust mode like the other two, but they pushed their chips in to acquire Pascal Siakam and they’re expecting to make some noise in the playoffs also.

Each of these teams has had rough stretches this season, but if they can get into the dance and stay healthy, they’ll have a chance to make some noise. Getting up to the 6 seed should offer a substantially easier path, so I’m expecting an absolute battle down the stretch.