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The wild, wild west

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Many have complained that the NBA season lacks excitement and that it’s basically just a warm-up for the playoffs. However, if we didn’t have the 82-game NBA season, we wouldn’t have the drama that befalls us this evening.

The NBA’s Western Conference playoff race is absolutely bonkers. Two games is all the separates the number three seed from being completely out of the picture. While all but one spot have been secured, seeding is still very much up in the air. As is that final spot. Tonight’s games will feature more drama than an episode of CSI. Here’s what we know.

We know the Houston Rockets will have the number one seed. At 65-16, they are far and away the best team in the NBA.

We know the Golden State Warriors will be number two. They are 58-24, they won the Pacific Division, they’re locked in.

Here’s where things get dicey.

The Utah Jazz are currently sitting in the number three position. Sitting just below them, with the exact same record of 48-33, are the Portland Trail Blazers. And wouldn’t you know it, these two teams play each other tonight. We know the winner will get the third seed. However, what happens to the loser is a little less clear.

If Portland wins, we know they get the third seed. But what of the Jazz? Lucky for them, they hold tiebreakers over both the New Orleans Pelicans, who currently hold the fifth seed, and the San Antonio Spurs, who are currently sixth but have the same record as, and are playing against, the Pelicans tonight. Regardless, Utah would remain the fourth seed and the winner of the Spurs/Pelicans would get the fifth.

Now if Portland loses, they will drop to the fifth seed. Why, you ask? Because of the Spurs and Pelicans game we just discussed, and an elaborate series of tiebreakers. If Portland loses, they will have the same record (48-34) as whichever of those two teams wins. However, Portland lost the season series to San Antonio (2-1) so they would lose the tiebreaker there. As for the Pelicans, they split the season series with the Blazers, so the tiebreaker would then go to division record. Portland’s current division record is 8-7. The Pelicans is... 8-7. So if Portland loses and New Orleans wins, the Blazers division record would become 8-8 and the Pelicans would become 9-7, giving them the tiebreaker.

Still with me?

If the Pelicans win, they can do no worse than the fifth seed. However, if they lose, they could drop all the way to eighth. Let me explain.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (47-34) are currently the seventh seed. The only tiebreaker they hold is against the Jazz. So if Portland and Oklahoma City both win, OKC would move to fourth because of complicated three-way tiebreakers.

Still want more drama? How about this; the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets both have the same record of 46-35. Minnesota is currently in the number eight seed by way of the season series tiebreaker, with Denver on the outside looking in. It all comes down to tonight’s game between... THE TIMBERWOLVES AND THE NUGGETS. That’s right, on the final day of the NBA season, these two teams will battle each other for the final playoff spot.

If Oklahoma City loses tonight, they would hold the same record as the winner of the Timberwolves/Nuggets game. That winner would thus move into seventh via tiebreaker, and the Thunder would drop to eighth. Now, if the Spurs win, the winner of the Wolves/Nuggets would move up to sixth, because both teams hold tiebreakers over the Pelicans, moving New Orleans down to seventh - or eighth if the Thunder win. The Nuggets can still move into sixth with a Pelicans win since they would hold the tiebreaker over the Spurs, moving the Spurs down to seventh - or eighth if the Thunder win.


It all goes down tonight, and you can watch the Blazers/Jazz game on ESPN at 7:30 pm PT. The rest of the games will require League Pass.