Skip to content

Breaking down the playoff chase in the Western Conference

Apr 2, 2013, 5:26 PM EST

Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan AP

The West is a mess. A deep, complex, playoff question mark still with a whole lot of moving parts.

Which is what makes playoff races fun.

We’ve got just more than two weeks of regular season games left. We’re going to try to lay out the entire playoff picture for you, but it’s messy, so stay with us here:

One and two seeds. It’s going to be San Antonio and Oklahoma City, in some order. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Spurs had a one-game lead over the Thunder.

The big key is the Thunder and Spurs face off Thursday night. That’s when we see how much the Spurs care about this race by who they suit up and send out there and who they rest… er, have to take out because their injured. If the Spurs win that game they not only stretch out their lead but also win the season series and the tiebreaker.

In the seven other games left this season, the Thunder have four on the road and four against playoff teams. The Spurs have only three on the road and three against playoff teams. You’ say advantage Spurs, but that means predicting Gregg Popovich and who he will play on any given night. Good luck with that.

Three, four and five seeds. This is where it gets really messy. Denver and Memphis are tied at 50-24 (Denver owns that tiebreaker) with the L.A. Clippers a game and a half back of both. Technically the Clippers as a division winner cannot slip any farther back than the four seed, but that would not give them automatic home court advantage. You really want to get the three seed and likely face Golden State or maybe Houston — the four and five seeds go head-to-head in the toughest first round matchup in either conference.

Denver has five of its eight at home and four current playoff teams (plus Dallas). Memphis has five games on the road but only two playoff teams (plus the Lakers, Blazers and Mavs in that road mix). The Clippers have the easiest schedule — five of eight at home and only one current playoff team (Memphis) but they have stumbled losing four of five.

There is no order there that would surprise me.

Six and seven seeds. This is going to be Golden State and Houston in some order. Golden State has a one-game lead and would like to maintain it because as scary as Denver (or Memphis, or the Clippers) might be as the three seed it’s not Oklahoma City. Houston wants wins for the same reason.

Houston is at Denver Saturday in a huge game for this seed matchup.

Eighth seed. This is a mess. The Jazz are as of Tuesday half a game ahead of the Lakers (tied in the loss column) and 1.5 up on Dallas (one up in the loss column) heading into a huge game for both teams between Dallas and the Lakers Tuesday night.

Here is the key — Utah has the tiebreaker over both Los Angeles and Dallas. The Jazz have seven games left, four and home and four against playoff teams. If Dallas goes 4-3 the rest of the way the Lakers must go 6-2 in their remaining eight games to pass them. And by the way, Utah is on a five game winning streak. All of which is to say Utah controls its own destiny. But it’s not going to be easy for anyone.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Timberwolves expect Ricky Rubio to return in mid-January

    Dec 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic Getty Images

    Flip Saunders said this a few weeks ago, too, but Rubio isn’t ready to stick to a timeline just yet.

  2. Paul Pierce ‘shocked’ by Celtics trade of Rajon Rondo to Mavericks

    Dec 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EST

    Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo AP

    It had been brewing for a while, but it still caught most of us by surprise.

  3. Lakers claim Tarik Black off waivers, create roster spot by waiving Xavier Henry

    Dec 28, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings

    Nice move by the Lakers, who pick up a promising big man prospect with an inexpensive non-guaranteed contract.

  4. Kyrie Irving to miss second straight game, out Sunday vs. Pistons

    Dec 28, 2014, 4:29 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Knee injury suffered on Christmas Day will continue to keep Irving sidelined.

  5. Kobe Bryant will return to Lakers lineup Sunday vs. Suns

    Dec 28, 2014, 3:30 PM EST

    Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Bryant has uncharacteristically sat out the previous three games simply to rest.

  6. PBT’s Top 10 NBA stories of 2014, No. 9: Eastern Conference inadequacy

    Dec 28, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    Eric Bledsoe, Marcus Morris AP

    Western Conference ends season with huge advantage, begins another right where it left off

  7. John Wall with another 360 layup (VIDEO)

    Dec 27, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards Getty Images

    He’s done it twice in the last two games.

  8. Hornets’ coach explains why Noah Vonleh barely sees the court

    Dec 27, 2014, 8:02 PM EST

    2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Getty Images

    A sports hernia kept him out of training camp and the rookie has never caught up with the learning curve.

  9. Rodney Stuckey says Pistons’ downward spiral began with Chauncey Billups trade

    Dec 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Chauncey Billups Chauncey Billups

    Stuckey says the trade robbed the locker room of accountability.

  10. Tobias Harris trash talked LeBron, then LeBron goes off, leads Cavs to win

    Dec 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Cleveland at Orlando Getty Images

    LeBron James was in “chill mode” and this team is vulnerable when he is.

Featured video

Who will land Josh Smith?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (8265)
  2. K. Bryant (7479)
  3. K. Martin (6302)
  4. J. Smith (6278)
  5. C. Bosh (6234)
  1. K. Leonard (6056)
  2. D. DeRozan (5262)
  3. T. Parker (5192)
  4. T. Jones (5182)
  5. A. Bogut (5175)