I can't remember a more complicated range of seeding possibilities with so few games left in the regular season. The standings in the competitive Western Conference will come down to the final games of the season for not only the Spurs, but also the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Los Angeles Clippers. While there are dozens of scenarios that could put the Spurs at the two, three, five or six seed (skipping four because Portland locked their seed by winning their division), here's an attempt to break down some first round scenarios for San Antonio.
After hopping briefly into the three seed after Friday's win over the Rockets, the Spurs currently sit in a three-way tie with MEM and LAC at five. They play their last home game tonight against Phoenix, then travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans to close out the regular season. While victories are never assured, the way the Spurs have played over the last 30 games makes winning both games fairly likely. If SA wins out, they're looking at either the two, three, or five seed, depending on how the Grizzlies and Rockets finish.
If you want the Spurs to be the two seed, you have to go against your natural instincts and root for the Rockets to win their last three. That would leave Houston tied with San Antonio, and when it comes to tiebreakers, the Spurs want the Rockets involved. If Houston wins two of their final three and Memphis loses one (likely to Golden State), the Spurs would be tied with the Rockets, where San Antonio's regular season record of 3-1 puts them on top.
In any scenario in which the Spurs win their division, they have the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Clippers. If there's a four-way tie at season's end, then the Spurs come out on top because of how the tie-breaker combines the records of the tied teams. (h/t Steve Perrin of Clips Nation)
But the Spurs don't win any tiebreakers if the Rockets aren't in the mix. So if the Rockets don't win out, and Memphis does, the Spurs lose the tiebreaker to Memphis, giving the Grizzlies the two seed, and putting the Spurs at third.
From what it looks like, Memphis has the best odds at ending up second, with the Spurs still having a chance. But if the Spurs lose either of their remaining games, the Spurs could end up fifth or sixth, depending on Houston and the Clippers.
If for some reason the Silver and Black drop these last two games, they would end up the sixth seed.
There are literally dozens of potential outcomes, but ending up the second or third seed seems most likely to occur. Now, the question is, what do the Spurs want to happen? I say the Spurs should want the second seed for two main reasons.
First, I don't see Dallas being much of a problem for San Antonio as seventh seed. The Spurs did split the season series with the Mavericks, 2-2, but one of those losses came during the Spurs' disastrous December, and the other required a 38-point outburst from Monta Ellis.
Second, I think the Spurs are better off avoiding Golden State for as long as possible. Being the two seed means the Spurs meet the Warriors only if both progress to the Conference finals. The third seed also means facing the Clippers or Rockets in the first round.
Whatever happens between now and Wednesday, Spurs fans need to count their blessings for even having a shot to end up with the second seed. Back on February 25th, the Spurs were a seven seed with a 34-23 record. Fast forward a month and a half and San Antonio could potentially finish 56-26 (yes, that's a 22-3 stretch run), and have a chance to land the first spot after a historic Golden State team in a historically ruthless Western Conference.
I can't help but wonder, had the Spurs not lost one of two triple-overtime games; if a desperation shot by Nick Young hadn't fallen; If Kyrie Irving missed just ONE late-game three; had that dreadful Knicks loss been just a horrible nightmare, how easily the Spurs could be the two-seed right now? But, hey, if I had invented Facebook then I would be Mark Zukerberg.
Let's just stop the madness and start the playoffs already.