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Cavaliers playoff seeding, first-round opponent comes down to Game No. 82

Apr. 13—Think of what has transpired so far in the NBA this season as a television series that began in late October and has one episode remaining.

What a cliffhanger episode No. 81 turned out to be.

The regular season for all NBA teams concludes April 14. For the Cavaliers, that means a game with the 20-61 Charlotte Hornets at 1 p.m. at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Cavs clinched a playoff spot and home-court advantage in the first round when they beat the Indiana Pacers, 129-120, on April 12 at the FieldHouse, but their seeding position and that of many teams in both conferences are not settled.

The Cavs are currently fourth, and if nothing changes, they would face the Orlando Magic in the first round. But they could also finish second or third depending on how April 14 games involving the second-place Bucks and third-place Knicks unfold.

The Bucks (49-32) who are without Giannis Antetokounmpo because of a calf injury, play the 46-35 Magic in Orlando. The Knicks, also 49-32, host the 39-42 Chicago Bulls. The Cavs are 48-33.

The Cavaliers will finish as the second seed if they beat the Hornets and the Bucks and Knicks both lose. They will finish third if they and the Knicks win and Milwaukee loses. The Cavs would stay in fourth if they, the Knicks and Bucks all win or all lose their final game. The reason the Cavs would take the second seed if they, the Knicks and Bucks all finish 49-33 is they would have a better division record than the Bucks (10-6 compared to 10-7) and winning the Central Division would trump the Knicks winning the season series over the Cavs, 2-1.

All three games begin at 1 p.m.

The Magic, Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers are all potential first-round opponents for the Cavaliers. So, yes, much is yet to be determined with one game left in a season that has taken almost six months to play.

"It's like a calculus class trying to keep up with all these scenarios," Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen said after scoring 29 points against the Pacers. "I try to keep up with it, but it's like two teams have to lose, one has to win — I'll see where it is next game."

It would be no surprise if the Cavs end up third and play the Pacers in a seven-game first-round series. Indiana is currently sixth in the East. The Pacers (45-36) host the 36-45 Hawks on April 14. All the incentive the Pacers need is knowing they would drop into the play-in tournament if they lose.

The Cavs will go into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak if they beat the Hornets. They haven't won three straight since they stitched together a nine-game winning streak from Jan. 26 to Feb. 10.

"This is the perfect time to do it," Allen said. "The playoffs are coming. We need to get back on track. We need to get back to how we were beating teams by 10 and 20 points. This (beating the Pacers) is just a perfect example of how we should play basketball going forward."

HORNETS AT CAVALIERS

When: 1 p.m. April 14

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Records: Hornets 20-61, Cavaliers 48-33

TV: Bally Sports Ohio