Are you ready for another Thunder-Laker playoff series? Could happen. Especially after the results Wednesday.
The Spurs lost to Denver, putting the Thunder back in control of the race for the No. 1 seed. The Thunder’s magic number is four. Any combination of four Thunder wins or Spur losses makes OKC the No. 1 seed. The Spurs’ magic number is five, so the race isn’t over. But clearly the Thunder is in command.
Meanwhile, the Lakers took control of the race with Utah for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, winning at Portland. Same deal in this race as Thunder-Spurs. The Laker magic number is three, Portland’s is four.
Basketball-reference.com has calculated the playoff probabilities and now gives the Thunder a 58.3 percent chance of finishing atop the Spurs and the Lakers a 79.5 percent chance of finishing atop the Jazz. That means a 46.3 percent of a Thunder-Laker first-round playoff series. The Lakers would love that — but only because it would mean a playoff berth. It’s a horrible matchup for LA. The Thunder has the interior defense to match up with the Laker strength of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard inside, has a perimeter defender in Thabo Sefolosha who can at least get in Kobe Bryant’s way and, most importantly, young legs that will run the Lakers ragged. LA can’t defend even the West’s mid-level point guards. The Lakers have no hope for Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers would much prefer the Spurs, though that will end badly for LA as well. The Spurs will dice up the Lakers. But at least the Lakers won’t be as exhausted when it’s over.
Of course, any 1-8 matchup is one-sided, though two No. 8 seeds have won series in recent years — the Warriors over the Mavericks in 2007 and the Grizzlies over the Spurs in 2011.
For the record, the new percentages for potential Thunder playoff series are: Lakers 46.3, Houston 22.9, Golden State 18.8 and Utah 11.9.
A Thunder-Laker series would be the third in four years. The Lakers won a first-round series three years ago, that memorable six-game set when LA was the top seed and the Thunder was a dangerous eight. Then last year, the Thunder, as the No. 2 seed, beat the third-seeded Lakers in five games.