Three losses the last four games have essentially squashed the Thunder’s chances of earning the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City is still in the running for the No. 4 seed. But it probably will take 53 or 54 wins to finish in the top four which means the Thunder would have to go 11-2 or 12-1 the rest of the season which isn’t realistic because of a demanding schedule.
Despite a recent tailspin — the Thunder’s worst week in more than two months — the sky isn’t falling. The Thunder will make the playoffs. Oklahoma City probably could go 4-9 the rest of the season and get in. A 3-10 or 2-11 finish might even be enough. That’s the cushion they built by going 17-3 over a six-week span.
The impact of losses to Charlotte (blowing a 19-point lead), Indiana (the biggest embarrassment all season) and San Antonio (couldn’t sustain early 14-point lead) is seeding.
Analyzing Western Conference contenders’ schedules, the best guess is Oklahoma City will still finish as the No. 6 seed. The Spurs’ win Monday, though, could make it a battle for the No. 6 and No. 7 spots. San Antonio now owns the tiebreaker which will force OKC to finish one game ahead of the Spurs.
San Antonio and Oklahoma City have the two most difficult schedules down the stretch which could give Portland an opportunity to climb as high as No. 6. The Spurs’ schedule is absolutely brutal.
After playing the Hawks and Thunder, the Spurs host the Lakers and Cleveland then end the week with a road game Sunday at Boston. And San Antonio still has to play Orlando, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and has another game with the Lakers.
That’s why if the Thunder can right the ship they can still finish as the No. 6 seed with an outside shot at No. 5 if the Suns were to stumble a couple of times against a so-so schedule.
Regardless of where OKC is seeded, the Thunder will be an underdog in the playoffs. Still, every team wants to avoid the No. 8 spot and a first-round matchup with the Lakers. That’s why Sunday’s game against Portland is HUGE!!!
OKC has two less losses than the Trail Blazers. If the Thunder wins Sunday night in the Ford Center they would clinch season tiebreaker, putting them in prime position to finish ahead of Portland.
Just making the playoffs is a huge step for a young team that won only 23 games last season. The Thunder will more than double that total, one of the top 10 turnarounds in NBA history.
Home-court advantage no longer looks realistic. But considering most preseason predictions didn’t give the Thunder a shot at finishing .500, much less make the playoffs, competing for the No. 6, 7 and 8 seeds is something players, coaches and fans would have taken in a heartbeat back in October.