It is a Tale of Two Conferences in the 2018 – 2019 NBA Championship.
In the Western, some positions could possibly shift in terms of which teams plays which in the first round of the playoffs, but all eight slots are filled and carved in stone. The top eight teams have either one or two games left. The number eight seed is the Los Angeles Clippers. All the lower teams have been eliminated by convincing margins.
A win in the final regular season game by the Clippers, combined with a loss by number seven San Antonio Spurs might enable the Clippers to avoid the Golden State Warriors in the first round. There could be a tiebreaker scenario in this event. The Clippers and the Spurs split the regular season head-to-head, the first tiebreaker. Neither will win their respective divisions, so it would come down to the third tiebreaker, highest winning percentage in the division, provided the two teams are in the same division.
That is not the case for the Clippers and San Antonio, so a tie would move to the fourth criterion, higher winning percentage in conference games. That one would go to the Spurs.
In the Eastern Conference, there is still one spot open. Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat both have two games remaining. It would seem that both need to win their final two games, hope for the Detroit Pistons to drop their final regular season game, and then hope the playoff math works in their favour.
Unlike the AFL, where the top of the table plays the number four, the NBA will give the number one team in the conference the number eight team for the first round.
As is the case in the Western, where avoiding Golden State is a desirable outcome, it is the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern that await the team that secures the eighth and final spot.
Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers have the third slot sewed up. They cannot advance and probably cannot be overtaken by Boston, since the Celtics have just one game left, meaning that it seems likely that Simmons and his teammates will see the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.