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Nets playoff picture taking shape

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. The Nets took another game from the Heat in Miami, this time literally on the hands of Mason Plumlee, as he blocked LeBron James at the rim. Either way, the Nets seem locked into the fifth seed in the East, with two games separating themselves between the third and fourth seed Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls, and three games between the Washington Wizards, the sixth seed, and the Nets.

With only five games left this season, the Nets will have a tough time catching Toronto and Chicago and giving up their current position to the Wizards, but anything is possible.

Here is Brooklyn's magic numbers to clinch specific playoff berths.

Magic number to clinch at least the sixth seed: 2

Magic number to clinch the fifth seed: 3

  • The Toronto Raptors have the easiest remaining schedule in the entire NBA with their opponents having a combined winning percentage of 33 percent. The Raptors easy remaining five games make it very difficult for the Nets to catch them in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors also own the tiebreaker over the Nets, so the Raptors—barring a complete meltdown—will win the Atlantic Division.
  • Chicago is in a similar position as the Raptors. The Bulls have two games on the Nets and own the tiebreaker between the two teams. With the Nets likely not catching the Bulls, they play only two more opponents with a winning record, the more interesting development could be who the Nets will play in the first round. If the Raptors and Bulls finish with the same record—the two teams currently have the same record at 45-32—then the Raptors get the three seed and the Bulls get the Nets in round one. For the Nets to play game one in Toronto, the Bulls have to finish with at least a game advantage on the Raptors.
  • Washington is most likely not going to catch Brooklyn in the race for the five seed. They are three back of Brooklyn with only five to play. They do have only one opponent left that has a record of above .500, the Heat, but they need a lot of help from the Nets' opponents.

The bigger question isn't where the Nets will finish this season, it is where they will play game one in the postseason.