Trying to decipher the Western Conference standings can get confusing.
But after blowing a double digit lead to Golden State Sunday night, the Thunder’s fate essentially boils down to tonight’s game at Portland.
Beat the Trail Blazers and OKC will be seeded No. 6 or 7. Lose to Portland and the Thunder can start making plans to open the playoffs in the Staples Center against the Lakers.
* If the Thunder defeats Portland tonight at the Rose Garden, Oklahoma City will be seeded no lower than No. 7 and could earn No. 6 by also defeating Memphis Wednesday night and have the Spurs lose once, the best chance being San Antonio’s game Wednesday night at Dallas.
* Lose tonight and the only way the Thunder avoids the No. 8 seed is to defeat Memphis Wednesday and have the Spurs lose both their games against Minnesota and Dallas (Anyone like the Timberwolves chances tonight in the Alamo City?).
After 80 games, the Thunder’s first post-season appearance basically boils down to having to defeat the Trail Blazers or be the No. 8 seed.
If the Thunder defeats Portland and Memphis, who would be their first-round opponent? Hard to say but here are the possible scenarios ranked in order of most likely to happen, not knowing whether they would be the No. 6 or 7 seed.
(A) Dallas is the overwhelming favorite to be the No. 2 seed.
(B) Utah is the favorite for the No. 3 seed but has to win both games (at Golden State Tuesday and home against Phoenix on Wednesday).
(C) Phoenix wins both its game (Tuesday vs. Denver and Wednesday at Utah) to earn the No. 3 seed.
(D) Denver wins both its games (Memphis tonight and at Phoenix Tuesday) to earn the No. 3 seed.
(E) Utah finishes as the No. 2 seed if San Antonio upsets Dallas and the Jazz win both their games UNLESS Denver wins both of its games, in which the Nuggets own the tiebreaker over the Jazz.
Like I said, it can still be complicated even though there are only two games left.
For the Thunder it’s simple. Defeat Portland or play the Lakers.
But if OKC wins tonight in the Rose Garden, the Thunder will finish either No. 6 or 7 but might have to wait until late Wednesday night after the Phoenix at Utah game before we know whether they play the Mavericks, Jazz, Nuggets or Suns.