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
4 of 7

Eastern Conference 9-10

This is probably the lowest stakes, least meaningful “race” down the stretch. But homecourt advantage in a single-elimination play-in tournament game is pretty important.

9. Chicago Bulls 37-41

10. Atlanta Hawks 36-42

Nobody is expecting much out of either of these teams, but due to the ugly bottom half of the East, they’ve had these spots mostly sewn up for a while. They could be frisky in a play-in setting; we saw the Hawks beat the Heat last year to clinch the 7 seed to then take Boston to 6 games in round one.

And the Bulls battled the Heat themselves, almost taking out the eventual East champs in the 8/9 matchup. They’ve got a clutch killer in DeMar DeRozan who can win a tight game down the stretch. The recent emergence of Coby White and the defensive excellence of Alex Caruso help make them a threat as well.

It’ll be an uphill battle for either team, as they’ll have to win two games in a row, just to be heavy underdogs against the Celtics in round one. But still, making the playoffs would be a solid boost for either squad and hosting the first play-in game would certainly help the cause.