Breaking Down West playoff races: Are you kidding me? What a mess.
There are just three days and two games per team left in the NBA season, and yet we have questions — the Western Conference Playoffs remain wide open.
Here is where things stand as of Monday morning:
No. 1 seed: The Golden State Warriors have officially secured up the top spot, not just in the West but in the NBA. They will have home court as long as they last in the playoffs.
No. 2-6 seeds: Everything is about as clear as the movie “12 Monkeys.” Which is to say not at all.
Here are the standings as of right now.
2. San Antonio
3. LA Clippers (-.5 game)
4. Portland (-3.5 games*)
5. Memphis (-.5 games)
6. Houston (-.5 games)
* Here’s the one thing we know: Portland will finish with the four seed but still be the road team in their first playoff series. They can finish no lower than fourth because they won the Northwest Division — welcome to the arcane rules of the NBA division system — but that does not secure them home court.
Which brings us to this note: Someone has to win the Southwest Division, too, amongst the Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies. Whoever wins that division likely is the two seed — they would get higher seeding than the Clippers in the event of the tie as the division winner (the Clips finish second to Golden State). San Antonio won on Sunday (beating Phoenix) and that moves them half a game ahead of Houston and Memphis for a day. If all three Southwest teams finish tied, the Spurs win the tie breaker. If just two of those teams finished tied, Memphis has the tie breaker over both SA and Houston, while the Spurs have the tie breaker over the Rockets.
And it just gets more confusing from there. Here are the remaining schedules for these teams:
San Antonio: at New Orleans
LA Clippers: Denver, at Phoenix
Memphis: at Golden State, Indiana
Houston: at Charlotte, Utah
It’s impossible to say who has the toughest remaining schedule. I’m tempted to say Memphis, but will Golden State rest guys (or at least reduce their minutes load)?
One final note: Teams would prefer to be the two seed to face Dallas, or the five seed to face the banged-up Blazers. There are no easy rounds in the West, but those appear better options than the 3-6 where two of these teams will face each other in maybe the best first round series out there.
No. 7 seed: The Dallas Mavericks are locked in here.
No. 8 seed: New Orleans and Oklahoma City remain tied for this slot after both lost on Sunday, but that means the Pelicans control their destiny — they own the tie breaker. If New Orleans wins out, they go to the playoffs.
Monday will be a key day in this chase: New Orleans plays Minnesota — losers of 10 in a row — while Oklahoma City has to face a good Portland team. OKC may have to play Portland without Russell Westbrook, due to his 16th technical foul of the season (that could be rescinded by the NBA, it seemed a poor call). If the Pelicans win and the Thunder lose on Monday, it’s all over, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans go to the playoffs.
The final games for both teams: OKC gets the lowly Timberwolves, while the Pelicans play the Spurs (who may or may not have something to play for, see above).
I’d rather be in the Pelicans’ spot right now, but this is still up in the air, too.