Playoff Picture: West #1 clearer, #8 still wide open.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets

Western Conference

Even with less than a week left until the end of the NBA regular season, the Western Conference’s chaotic playoff picture refuses to straighten itself out.

No. 1 seed: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder
We’ll start with the simple: San Antonio’s 109-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks means they need just one more win/Oklahoma City Thunder loss to clinch the top seed in the West.

No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds: Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City can clinch no worse than second with a combination of two wins/Los Angeles Clippers losses. The Clippers need to win one more game/see the Rockets lose once more to lock up the third seed. Houston still needs two wins/Portland losses to ensure homecourt in the first round.

No. 5 and No. 6 seeds: Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State WarriorsPortland’s magic number for the fifth seed is still three. That 1.5 game gap to the 4th-seeded Rockets looks too big to overcome in what little time is left. Golden State could have locked into the sixth seed by beating Denver last night but decided to give themselves more work to do.

No. 7 and No. 8 seeds: Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies
The Mavericks’ loss means Dallas falls into a tie (but behind on percentage points) with Phoenix for 7th and into a tie in the loss column with Memphis (but ahead thanks to owning the tie-breaker).

Dallas will clinch a playoff berth with a win in one of it’s final two games (vs Phoenix on Sunday, at Memphis on Wednesday).

Memphis holds all the cards since they, as well as having the easier run-in with games vs Philadelphia, Los Angeles Lakers, Suns and Mavs, have beaten the Suns in both meetings this season and thus hold the tie-breaker.

Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference had the night off tonight and is much simpler to figure out.

No. 1 and No. 2 seeds: Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat
Despite their issues, the Pacers reclaimed the top seed with their buzzer-beating win against Milwaukee. These two teams meet tonight. If Indiana wins, they need to win two games to clinch the top seed. If Miami wins, they need to realistically win their other three remaining games given the Pacers play Orlando on the final night. Of course, if neither team beats who they are supposed to, this gets stupidly complex.

No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5th seeds: Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets
The Raptors are in the driving seat with the lead in the Atlantic Division. Their win, coupled with the Brooklyn loss, ensured they will win the Division and thus homecourt advantage in the first round. They need one more win/Chicago loss to secure third. The Bulls themselves need one more win/Brooklyn loss to secure fourth.

No. 6 and No. 7 seeds: Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards
Charlotte’s overtime road win in Washington on Wednesday night was absolutely massive in this race. These two are tied on record but Charlotte holds the tie-breaker.

No. 8 seed: Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks
Can we switch one of these teams for whoever loses out in the West? Atlanta found themselves down big at home against Boston before waking up and realising they were playing Boston, turning the game around on a 19-3 run late in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks need a combination of two wins/two Knicks losses to clinch the 8th seed. New York finishes with a really difficult quartet of games: at Toronto, vs Chicago, at Brooklyn, vs Toronto. Compare that to Atlanta: at Brooklyn, vs Miami, vs Charlotte, at Milwaukee. I know what I’d rather have. Hint: it’s the worst team in the league in the final game of the season.

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