The Thunder has hit the home stretch: 31/2 weeks left in the regular season. The Thunder is trying to catch the Spurs for the No. 1 seed while holding off the Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies, all of whom have designs on the No. 2 seed.
So let’s examine the schedules of each and figure out where each team is like to finish.
* Spurs 53-17. Remaining schedule: Denver, LA Clippers, Miami, at Memphis, Orlando, at Oklahoma City, Atlanta, at Denver, Sacramento, at LA Lakers, at Golden State, Minnesota.
Three tough home games, three tough road games, three easy home games and three interesting games – home with Atlanta, on the road at the Warriors and Lakers.
Let’s say the Spurs go 3-3 in those six tough games, 3-0 in the easy games and 2-1 in the interesting games. That’s 8-4 down the stretch, which would put the Spurs at 61-21.
* Thunder 52-19. Remaining schedule: Washington, at Minnesota, at Milwaukee, San Antonio, at Indiana, New York, at Utah, at Golden State, at Portland, Sacramento, Milwaukee.
That’s one tough home game (Spurs), one tough road game (Pacers); three easy home games (Wizards, Kings, Bucks); one interesting home game (Knickerbockers); four interesting road games (Bucks, Jazz, Warriors, Blazers); and one easy road game (T-Wolves).
Let’s say the Thunder goes 1-1 in the tough games, 3-0 in the easy games, wins the interesting home game, splits the interesting road games and wins the easy road game. That’s 8-3 down the stretch, which would put the Thunder at 60-22.
* Nuggets 49-22. Remaining schedule: at New Orleans, at San Antonio, Brooklyn, at Utah, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, at Dallas, Portland, at Milwaukee, Phoenix.
That’s one tough road game, one tough road game, one easy road game, three interesting road games, three interesting home games and two easy home game.
So let’s say Denver splits with San Antonio; goes 2-1 at Utah, Dallas and Milwaukee; goes 3-0 against Brooklyn, Dallas and Houston (the Nuggets don’t lose home games); and beats Phoenix, Portland and New Orleans. That’s 9-2, which puts Denver at 58-24.
* Clippers 48-22. Remaining schedule: at Dallas, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, at Houston, Indiana, Phoenix, LA Lakers, Minnesota, at New Orleans, at Memphis, Portland, at Sacramento.
That’s two tough road games, two interesting road games, three easy road games, one tough home game, two easy home games and two interesting home game.
Let’s say the Clips go 4-3 on the road, which will be tough, and 4-1 at home. That’s 8-4 overall, which would make LA 56-26.
* Grizzlies 47-22. Remaining schedule: at Washington, at New York, Houston, at Minnesota, San Antonio, at Portland, at LA Lakers, at Sacramento, Charlotte, at Houston, LA Clippers, at Dallas, Utah.
That’s three easy road games, two tough home games, five interesting road games, two interesting home game, one easy home game. Interesting schedule. Road games at New York, Portland, the Lakers, Houston and Dallas. Grizzlies could go one of two directions. Let’s say Memphis goes 3-2 in those games, sweeps the four easy games, splits the home games against the Spurs and Clippers, and sweeps the home games against Houston and Utah. That’s 10-3, which is 57-25.
So there you have it. The most likely finish of the West:
1. San Antonio 61-21
2. OKC 60-22
3. Denver 58-24
4. Memphis 57-25
5. LA Clippers 56-26