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Everything Spurs fans need to know about the playoff seeding scenarios

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We know the range the Spurs can finish in the West, but there’s still much to be decided.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs may only have two regular season games left, but that doesn’t mean their place in the standings is set. Far from it, actually. While they are a lock to end up anywhere between the 6th and 8th seeds, there are a number of different scenarios that can play out to determine both where they land and whom they face in the first round of the playoffs.

Playoff standings

Seeding Team W L GB
Seeding Team W L GB
1 Golden State Warriors 55 24 0
2 Denver Nuggets 53 26 2
3 Houston Rockets 52 28 3.5
4 Portland Trail Blazers 50 29 5
5 Utah Jazz 49 30 6
6 Los Angeles Clippers 47 33 8.5
7 Oklahoma City Thunder 46 33 9
8 San Antonio Spurs 46 34 9.5

Remaining schedule

Team Sun., April 7 Tue., April 9 Wed., April 10
Team Sun., April 7 Tue., April 9 Wed., April 10
Warriors vs Clippers at Pelicans at Grizzlies
Nuggets at Blazers at Jazz vs Wolves
Rockets vs Suns at Thunder
Blazers vs Nuggets at Lakers vs Kings
Jazz at Lakers vs Nuggets at Clippers
Clippers at Warriors vs Jazz
Thunder at Wolves vs Rockets at Bucks
Spurs at Cavaliers vs Mavericks

Spurs’ seeding scenarios

The San Antonio Spurs cannot finish any higher than the sixth seed, and before yesterday, I thought even that was out of reach. But then the NBA threw us a curveball by having the extremely shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers erase a double-digit second half deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers. Any given Friday, right?

With the Clippers’ loss to the Lakers, we now know for almost certainty that the Clippers, Thunder, and Spurs will all finish somewhere between 6th and 8th in the West. The ordering of these three teams are still very much in flux.

Note: There is a scenario where the Utah Jazz lose the remainder of their games and both the Clippers and Thunder win the remainder of their games. Under this scenario, the three-way tiebreaker criteria would result in the Thunder finishing 5th, the Clippers finishing 6th, and the Jazz finishing 7th. This is unlikely, however.

Spurs tiebreaker scenarios:

  • The Spurs have clinched the tiebreaker against the Oklahoma City Thunder by way of head-to-head record.
  • Technically, the Spurs have clinched the tiebreaker against the Clippers by way of conference record. Even though it’s not official, there’s no scenario where the Spurs can catch the Clippers and the Clippers end up with the better conference record.
  • The Spurs have clinched the three-way tiebreaker with the Thunder and Clippers by way of head-to-head record.

The Clippers have the toughest remaining schedule out of the three teams at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race. They play in Golden State on Sunday against a Warriors team looking to clinch first place in the West. The Clippers end their season at home against the Utah Jazz, who still have a realistic shot at getting home court advantage in the first round.

The Thunder play three games in four nights, playing at Minnesota on Sunday, at home against the Rockets on Tuesday, and at Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Minnesota Timberwolves are 25-14 at home this season, so that game will not be a walkover by any stretch of the imagination. Their toughest game will come at home against the Rockets, as the Rockets still have their sights set on a second or third seed in the West. The game against the Milwaukee Bucks won’t likely be as tough as it sounds, as the Bucks have already clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Spurs play in Cleveland on Sunday and end their regular season at home against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The Spurs barely defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Manu night, so hopefully they come out focused on Sunday and take care of business. The Mavericks are a terrible road team, but playing Dallas in an important final game makes me nervous. At least it’s not against the New Orleans Pelicans.

With that in mind, here are the potential seeding scenarios for the Spurs.

Sixth place in the West

  • Spurs win both remaining games, and the Thunder and Clippers lose at least one of their remaining games
  • Spurs win one of their two remaining games, the Thunder lose two out of their three remaining games, and the Clippers lose both of their remaining games

Seventh place in the West

In order from most likely to least likely (in my opinion):

  • Spurs win both remaining games, the Thunder win all three of their remaining games, and the Clippers lose at least one of their two remaining games
  • Spurs win both remaining games, the Clippers win both remaining games, and the Thunder lose at least one of their three remaining games
  • Spurs lose one of their two remaining games, the Thunder win at least two of their three remaining games, and the Clippers lose both of their remaining games
  • Spurs lose one of their two remaining games, the Clippers win at least one of their two remaining games, and the Thunder lose at least two of their three remaining games
  • Spurs lose both of their remaining games and the Thunder lose all three of their remaining games

Eight place in the West

  • Spurs, Clippers, and Thunder win all of their remaining games
  • Spurs win one of their two remaining games, the Clippers win at least one of their two remaining games, and the Thunder win at least two of their three remaining games
  • Spurs lose both of their remaining games and the Thunder win at least one of their three remaining games

Spurs’ potential opponent scenarios

First place in the West

Golden State Warriors can clinch if:

  • Warriors win any of their three remaining games
  • Denver Nuggets lose any of their three remaining games

Nuggets can clinch if:

  • Warriors lose all three of their remaining games and the Nuggets win all three of their remaining games

Second place in the West

Warriors can clinch if:

  • Warriors lose all three of their remaining games and the Nuggets win all three of their remaining games

Nuggets can clinch if:

  • Nuggets win two out of their three remaining games
  • Nuggets win one out of their three remaining games and the Houston Rockets lose one or both of their remaining games
  • Nuggets lose all three of their remaining games and the Rockets lose both of their remaining games

Rockets can clinch if:

  • Rockets win one or both of their remaining games and the Nuggets lose all three of their remaining games
  • Rockets win both of their remaining games and the Nuggets lose two or all three of their remaining games

Note: The Blazers cannot finish second because even if they win out and the Nuggets lose out, the Nuggets own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Third place in the West

Nuggets can clinch if:

  • Nuggets lose all three of their remaining games and Rockets win one or both of their remaining games
  • Nuggets lose two or all of their three remaining games and Rockets win both of their remaining games

Rockets can clinch if:

  • Rockets win both of their remaining games and Nuggets win two or all three of their remaining games
  • Rockets win one of their two of their remaining games, the Nuggets win one or more of their three remaining games, and the Blazers lose at least one of their three remaining games
  • Rockets lose both of their remaining games and the Blazers lose two or all three of their remaining games

Trail Blazers can clinch if:

  • Blazers win two of their three remaining games and the Rockets lose both of their remaining games
  • Blazers win all three of their remaining games and the Rockets lose both of their remaining games
  • Blazers win all three of their remaining games, the Rockets lose one of their two remaining games, and the Nuggets win at least one of their three remaining games

Note: If the Blazers win all three of their remaining games, the Rockets lose one of their two remaining games, and the Nuggets lose all three of their remaining games, the three teams will end in a three-way tie. The tiebreaker will result in the Rockets finishing second (via division winner and head-to-head over Nuggets), the Nuggets finishing third (via division winner), and the Blazers finishing fourth.

Final thoughts

It’s too late for me to back down now. Yes, the Nuggets have the best road record in the Western Conference and the Spurs are not very good on the road. Still, the playoffs are a completely different animal, and when the other options are the Warriors or the Rockets, I’ll take the Nuggets any day of the week. I’d prefer to play the Rockets later in the playoffs when James Harden has started his annual breakdown due to fatigue. I want to avoid the Warriors until as late as possible. The Nuggets just end up being the lesser of the three evils. As I mentioned in a previous article, I’m not trying to disrespect the Nuggets. The Spurs are going to be an underdog against whichever team they end up facing off against. I just believe they have the best shot at upsetting the Nuggets.

Sunday will go a long way towards deciding the final playoff seeding as all eight teams in the Western Conference playoffs have a game. Should be a fun night!