In the stronger conference, the race for the NBA playoffs is happening on all fronts, with the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder fighting for the number one spot; the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets for the 3-4-5 finish; the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets on avoiding one of the two clear favorites in the West, while the Los Angeles Lakers try to catch up with the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot.
The Spurs have been resting some of their key players in recent games, but the upcoming encounter between them and the Oklahoma City Thunder (April 4) might be the deciding factor on who wins the home advantage prize. The Spurs have won two of the three games this season, but this will also be about learning if the Spurs even care about finishing first – home advantage in the conference finals didn’t help them last season against the younger, and eventually better, Thunder.
|1||x-San Antonio Spurs *||55||19||.743||–||74|
|2||x-Oklahoma City Thunder *||54||20||.730||1.0||74|
|4||x-Los Angeles Clippers *||49||26||.653||6.5||75|
|6||Golden State Warriors||42||32||.568||13.0||74|
|9||Los Angeles Lakers||39||36||.520||16.5||75|
The most complicated of battles seems to be for the 3-4-5, because of the division winner rules. The Los Angeles Clippers can’t slip lower than fourth, which means that even if they finish with the fifth best record, they are in the series everyone wants to avoid. Both the Nuggets and Grizzlies are tied at 50-24, while the Clippers are 1.5 games behind at 49-26. Everyone wants to avoid finishing fourth or fifth, hoping to get either the Warriors or the Rockets in the next series.
It’s been an interesting regular season series between these two teams, with the Rockets winning it 3-1. No more meetings between them, but both teams are trying to avoid having to play either OKC or the Spurs. Right now, the Warriors have a one game advantage over the Rockets, stuck at 7th, hoping that James Harden comes back soon (or maybe not?) in an effort to leapfrog the Warriors and get an “easier” date with the Clippers, Nuggets or Grizzlies.
And the most interesting battle for the general public, the fight for 8th, because the Lakers are involved. Both teams are at 39-36, but the Jazz have the tiebreak edge, meaning the Lakers, needing to play Memphis, Clippers, New Orleans, at Hornets, Golden State, Spurs and finally the Rockets, are going to make the most of their mostly home schedule. The Jazz? They have a rougher finish, on the road, playing Denver, New Orleans, at Golden State, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, at Minnesota and finally at Memphis.