With three nights remaining in the regular season, the bottom of the Western Conference is still yet to take shape.
And because of that unknown, there is still plenty of uncertainty regarding the Thunder’s first round opponent. But over the weekend, the number of possible foes was cut from four to three.
By winning out and getting some help, the Suns can still make the playoffs. But based on tiebreakers, their only hope is the eighth seed. So Phoenix is no longer an option in the first round for the Thunder.
The Mavs, Grizzlies and Warriors still are. Let’s look at the possibilities, assuming the Thunder remains the second seed and matches up with the seventh:
- The most likely opponent remains the Mavericks. If Dallas wins its final game (at Memphis) or the Grizzlies lose in Phoenix on Monday night, the Mavs are locked into at least the seventh seed. They can still jump to six, depending on what the Warriors do in their final two games (vs Minnesota, at Denver). But if Golden State wins at least one and ends in a tie with the Mavs, the Warriors would be the six seed based on their 3-1 head-to-head record. Dallas would be the seven.
- If Memphis wins its final two games (at Phoenix, vs Dallas), it will eliminate the Suns and hop the Mavs, who will be planted in the eighth seed. The Grizzlies could also elevate to six, again depending on the Warriors final two games. But if Golden State wins at least one of its last two, it will hold the tiebreaker on the Grizzlies based on a better conference record. So the Warriors would be at six, Memphis at seven.
- If the Warriors loses both of their remaining games, they would fall to seven if the Mavs beat the Grizzlies on Wednesday or if the Grizzlies win both that game and their matchup with the Suns on Monday.
- If in the unlikely scenario that it ends in a 3-way tie at 49-33, the Warriors would be sixth, the Mavericks would be seventh and the Grizzlies would be eighth. If it’s a four-way tie at 49-33, with the Suns also involved, it would be the same. Warriors at six, Mavs at seven, Grizzlies at eight, Suns at nine.
- There still remains an unlikely scenario that the Thunder drops to the third seed. OKC would have to lose its final two games (at Pelicans, vs Pistons) and the Clippers would have to win their final two games (vs Denver, at Blazers). But even if that were to happen, the Thunder would still play one of these three teams — Mavs, Grizzlies, Warriors — the scenarios would just change. Golden State would become the most likely opponent.
Here are the current standings:
6. Golden State 49-31
7. Mavericks 49-32
8. Grizzlies 48-32
9. Suns 47-33