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Spurs Watch: San Antonio in sole possession of the 6th seed

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A summary of NBA games on 3/12/19 that impacted the Spurs’ playoff chances.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night was a good night for the San Antonio Spurs. They won a second straight game on the road - their first time doing so in two months - and the Los Angeles Clippers finally lost a game, allowing the Spurs to move up to 6th in the Western Conference standings.

Raptors’ draft pick watch

Team W L GB
Team W L GB
Milwaukee Bucks 51 17 0
Toronto Raptors 48 20 3
Golden State Warriors 45 21 5
Denver Nuggets 44 22 6

Milwaukee Bucks 130 - New Orleans Pelicans 113

The Milwaukee Bucks created another 12 game of separation between themselves and the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the NBA. There’s not much to say about this game, so let me take a moment to talk about the New Orleans Pelicans’ decision to play Anthony Davis, but in limited minutes. If my injury-prone star player said he wanted out, I would ensconce him in bubblewrap and send him home until he was traded. Maybe it’s easy for me to say since it’s not my money, but even the threat of a hefty fine for not playing Davis would not change my mind. The Pelicans’ front office needs to do what is best for their organization, which right now is protecting Davis and losing games in preparation for the summer. Playing Davis limited minutes helps nobody.

Minnesota Timberwolves 107 - Denver Nuggets 133

The Denver Nuggets were at home against a Minnesota Timberwolves team without Andrew Wiggins and Derrick Rose. Though the end result was predicable, the Nuggets did a good job of not playing down to their competition. A fantastic 34 point effort from Karl-Anthony Towns was not enough to keep the Nuggets from running away in this one.

This win moves the Nuggets to within three games of the Raptors, but overtaking them in the standings seems like a long shot at best.

Toronto Raptors News (Spurs draft pick update)

Serge Ibaka was suspended three games for his fight during the Cleveland Cavaliers game, so we’ll see if his absence ends up hurting Toronto — remember, now that San Antonio is all but guaranteed their pick, the worse the Raptors’ record is, the better their pick will be, which of course helps the Spurs come draft day. The Raptors are 2-2 this season when Ibaka doesn’t play.

Playoff watch

Ranking Team W L GB
Ranking Team W L GB
1 Golden State Warriors 45 21 0
2 Denver Nuggets 44 22 1
3 Houston Rockets 42 25 3.5
4 Oklahoma City Thunder 41 26 4.5
5 Portland Trail Blazers 41 26 4.5
6 San Antonio Spurs 39 29 7
7 Los Angeles Clippers 39 30 7.5
8 Utah Jazz 37 29 8
9 Sacramento Kings 33 33 12

San Antonio Spurs 112 - Dallas Mavericks 105

Hey, another road win!

The Spurs’ best players are all playing at a high level right now. DeMar DeRozan has shot over 50 percent from the field in each game since the All Star break. His February had me a bit worried, but he’s peaking at just the right time.

LaMarcus Aldridge continues to have the most efficient season of his NBA career, and he’s even stepping out beyond the three point line on occasion. I think that’s a fantastic idea, as it stretches the floor and makes him even more difficult to defend.

Derrick White scored 23 points on 16 shots without taking a single free throw. He was aggressive all night, and did a great job defending a hobbled Luka Doncic. (Why was Doncic out there in the first place? Seemed like a reckless decision by the Mavericks.)

Portland Trail Blazers 125 - Los Angeles Clippers 104

For the second straight night, the Los Angeles Clippers had an opportunity to ruin San Antonio’s chances of ending the night with the 6th seed in the West. The Clippers had the lead for the majority of the first half, but ran out of steam in the fourth quarter of their SEGABABA.

While this game allowed the Spurs to take a half game lead over the Clippers, it also kept the Blazers’ lead over the Spurs for 5th in the West at 2.5 games. I think anything better than 6th in the West is unrealistic, so I preferred this outcome to Clips over Blazers.

Tiebreakers

The tiebreakers between two teams are as follows:

  1. Head-to-head
  2. Division winner
  3. Win percentage in-division if tied teams are in the same division
  4. Conference win percentage
  5. Winning percentage against playoff teams in the West
  6. Winning percentage against playoff teams in the East
  7. Season point differential

Below breaks down the Spurs’ tiebreaker situation against the other teams in the Western Conference that the Spurs have a realistic shot at catching:

  • Houston Rockets - Rockets currently hold the tiebreaker because of their 2-1 record against the Spurs. If the Spurs win their final matchup of the season and end up tied with the Rockets at the end of the regular season, it’ll come down to win percentage in-division. As it stands, the Spurs hold a half game lead over the Rockets in division games.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder - Spurs have clinched the tiebreaker because they won the season series 2-1.
  • Portland Trail Blazers - Blazers currently hold the tiebreaker because of the 2-1 record against the Spurs. If San Antonio wins their final matchup of the season and end up tied with the Blazers, it’ll come down to conference win percentage. Right now the Spurs have a 3.5 game lead over the Blazers in conference games.
  • Los Angeles Clippers - Spurs hold the tiebreaker because they have a two game lead over the Clippers in conference games.
  • Utah Jazz - Jazz have clinched the tiebreaker because they won the season series 2-1.

Tonight’s games to watch

For the game’s above, I’ll be rooting for the Thunder, Warriors, and Jazz. My ultimate goal is for the Spurs to finish 7th and face the untested Nuggets in the 1st round of the playoffs. If the Spurs are to finish 7th, the mostly likely outcome is for the Jazz to finish 6th, the Spurs 7th, and the Clippers 8th. That’s why I must root for the Jazz to overtake the Spurs.

I want the Thunder to overtake the Rockets for 3rd in the West. This will push the Rockets to 4th, forcing them to face the Warriors before the WCF. It’ll also put the Thunder as the most-likely second round opponent for the Spurs. I really like the way the Spurs played the Thunder during the regular season. I don’t trust them - namely Russell Westbrook - in clutch situations, so I’d prefer to see them in the playoffs than the Rockets or even the Blazers.

There are those who say “I don’t care who the Spurs play in the playoffs, we have a shot against anybody.” That’s fine, but there are those teams who matchup a lot better against us than others. If the stars align in the right way, the Spurs could surprise a lot of people and end up in the WCF.