Author: Kurt Helin

Phoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs

Breaking Down West playoff races: Are you kidding me? What a mess.


There are just three days and two games per team left in the NBA season, and yet we have questions — the Western Conference Playoffs remain wide open.

Here is where things stand as of Monday morning:

No. 1 seed: The Golden State Warriors have officially secured up the top spot, not just in the West but in the NBA. They will have home court as long as they last in the playoffs.

No. 2-6 seeds: Everything is about as clear as the movie “12 Monkeys.” Which is to say not at all.

Here are the standings as of right now.

2. San Antonio
3. LA Clippers (-.5 game)
4. Portland (-3.5 games*)
5. Memphis (-.5 games)
6. Houston (-.5 games)

* Here’s the one thing we know: Portland will finish with the four seed but still be the road team in their first playoff series. They can finish no lower than fourth because they won the Northwest Division — welcome to the arcane rules of the NBA division system — but that does not secure them home court.

Which brings us to this note: Someone has to win the Southwest Division, too, amongst the Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies. Whoever wins that division likely is the two seed — they would get higher seeding than the Clippers in the event of the tie as the division winner (the Clips finish second to Golden State). San Antonio won on Sunday (beating Phoenix) and that moves them half a game ahead of Houston and Memphis for a day. If all three Southwest teams finish tied, the Spurs win the tie breaker. If just two of those teams finished tied, Memphis has the tie breaker over both SA and Houston, while the Spurs have the tie breaker over the Rockets.

And it just gets more confusing from there. Here are the remaining schedules for these teams:

San Antonio: at New Orleans
LA Clippers: Denver, at Phoenix
Memphis: at Golden State, Indiana
Houston: at Charlotte, Utah

It’s impossible to say who has the toughest remaining schedule. I’m tempted to say Memphis, but will Golden State rest guys (or at least reduce their minutes load)?

One final note: Teams would prefer to be the two seed to face Dallas, or the five seed to face the banged-up Blazers. There are no easy rounds in the West, but those appear better options than the 3-6 where two of these teams will face each other in maybe the best first round series out there.

No. 7 seed: The Dallas Mavericks are locked in here.

No. 8 seed: New Orleans and Oklahoma City remain tied for this slot after both lost on Sunday, but that means the Pelicans control their destiny — they own the tie breaker. If New Orleans wins out, they go to the playoffs.

Monday will be a key day in this chase: New Orleans plays Minnesota — losers of 10 in a row — while Oklahoma City has to face a good Portland team. OKC may have to play Portland without Russell Westbrook, due to his 16th technical foul of the season (that could be rescinded by the NBA, it seemed a poor call). If the Pelicans win and the Thunder lose on Monday, it’s all over, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans go to the playoffs.

The final games for both teams: OKC gets the lowly Timberwolves, while the Pelicans play the Spurs (who may or may not have something to play for, see above).

I’d rather be in the Pelicans’ spot right now, but this is still up in the air, too.

Breaking down East playoff races: a few seeds still up in air


There are just three days and two games per team left in the NBA season, and yet we have questions. In the East those questions are mainly about who gets the bottom couple seeds — and with that wiped out in the first round — but they are questions none the less.

Here are where things stand as of Monday morning in the Eastern Conference.

No. 1 seed: The Atlanta Hawks have officially locked up the top spot. They have home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

No. 2 seed: The Cleveland Cavaliers’ have locked up the two seed.

No. 3-5 seeds: Toronto and Chicago are in a dead heat, tied for the 3-4 seeds at 48-32. Toronto has the tie breaker and the easier schedule — the Bulls face the Nets and Hawks (although the Hawks are resting guys); the Raptors have the Celtics and Hornets.

Toronto has home-court in the first round. The Wizards are two games back of the Bulls and Raptors, and they can — mathematically — catch the Bulls and get the four seed. But most likely Washington is the five seed starting on the road.

No. 6 seed: With their win Sunday, the Milwaukee Bucks locked up the six seed. That’s quite an accomplishment for a team most thought was lottery bound before the season.

No. 7-8 seeds: Smart money has the Celtics and Nets getting the last couple playoff spots, but that is not set in stone. Here is where we are in the standings:

7. Boston —
8. Brooklyn (-1 game)
9. Indiana (-1 games)
10. Miami (-2 games)

Boston has a magic number of one to make the playoffs; they just need a win in their last two games (Toronto, Milwaukee).

The Nets have the tie breaker with Indiana, which is huge, but the two teams are tied. Brooklyn finishes the season against Chicago and Orlando, the Pacers face Washington and Memphis. You have to like the Nets’ chances. If the Nets lose both games and the Heat win both of theirs — Orlando and Philadelphia — then the Heat will tie Brooklyn and can get in because the tie breaker falls to Miami.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: A lot of Westbrook may not be enough

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while watching the True Detective season 2 trailer over and over

1) Russell Westbrook tries to will Thunder into playoffs with 54 points, but it’s not enough. Oklahoma City may miss the playoffs, but it’s not for a lack of effort from Russell Westbrook. Sunday he dropped 54 points — on 43 shots, which is efficient compared to his recent big games — trying to will the Thunder past the Pacers. He couldn’t. Indiana won 116-104 behind 30 points from C.J. Miles. More than that, Westbrook may have cost his team a shot at the postseason when he got a techical in the fourth quarter. It was a quick whistle from Ed Malloy and should be rescinded by the league, but if it’s not Westbrook has 16 techs and would be out Monday night against Portland. The Thunder and Pelicans remain tied for the final playoff spot, but the Pelicans have the tie breaker. A New Orleans win Monday, and an OKC loss, and the Thunder can start making tee times for next weekend.

With the win, the Pacers moved into a tie with Brooklyn for the last playoff spot in the East.

2) James Harden kept the Thunder in playoff picture at all. The Thunder should send a nice gift basket to their old teammate Harden, the only reason they are still hin the playoff picture is Harden helped lead a come-from-behind win over New Orleans Sunday. Harden had 30 points, and the Thunder should thank Corey Brewer too, he had 13 in the fourth quarter for Houston.

As for the Rockets… the West is still a mess. Houston, Memphis and the LA Clippers are all 54-26, just half a game back of San Antonio at 55-26. While the Trail Blazers will finish with the four seed (they won the Northwest Division) the other four teams could finish anywhere from 2-6 still. With a couple games left. The West is a mess.

3) Cleveland helps Celtics take big step toward playoffs. If you can name the Cavaliers’ player, they probably rested on Sunday. Which is the smart move for Cleveland, it has wrapped up the two seed and wants guys fresh for the playoffs (even if the first round will be a virtual bye). No LeBron James, Kyrie Iriving, Kevin Love or much of anyone else. That was a huge break for the Celtics, who picked up an easy win 117-78 and with that moved into the seven seed, one game clear of Brooklyn and Indiana (tied for that eight slot). If the playoffs started today, Boston would face Cleveland. And get crushed.

4) Milwaukee’s you East six seed, hurt Brooklyn in the process. Brooklyn is the eight seed, tied with Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East, because the Nets lost to the Bucks. What that means for Milwaukee is they are locked in as the six seed in the East — which before the season seemed impossible. This Bucks team is taking a step forward (although I don’t love the trade for Michael Carter-Williams).

5) Kenneth Faried put on a show, dropped 30 on the Kings. The Manimal showed up to play on Sunday and had 19 points in the first quarter. He went on to score 30 in a 122-111 Denver win over George Karl’s Sacramento squad. Faried didn’t try to stretch his game; he just got to the rim. Check out this shot chart and video.