There have been 1,215 NBA games played in a too-long NBA season that dates back to last October, but that has not been enough to sort out seeds 5-9 in the Western Conference.
The NBA got what it wanted: Drama on the final day of the regular season. Games that matter. Specifically, four games, giving us sixteen different scenarios for the bottom half of the West. Those games that matter are:
• New Orleans at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. Eastern, League Pass)
• Utah at the Los Angeles Lakers (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN)
• Golden State at Portland (3:30 p.m. Eastern, League Pass)
• Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix (3:30 p.m. Eastern, League Pass)
And the scenarios… that’s tougher to explain. Here’s a chart for all of them, courtesy of the NBA.
Updated Western Conference Playoff and Play-In scenarios through today's games.
Seeds 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/RBf48BWeHP
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 9, 2023
Here’s what that chart says:
• If the Clippers and Warriors win, they will be the No.5 and 6 seeds and avoid the play-in.
• If the Clippers beat the Suns, Los Angeles will be the No.5 seed (and face those Suns in the first round). Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he planned to play his core rotation on Sunday to secure the win (it is their second game of a back-to-back). The Suns have already announced they will sit Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul and just about anyone else you can name on that team.
• If the Clippers lose Sunday they can drop no further than the No.7 seed.
• If the Warriors beat the tanktastic Trail Blazers, they finish no lower than sixth, avoiding the play-in (they lose the tiebreaker to the Clippers).
“It’s the only thing that we can control,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said, via the Associated Press. “There’s other games that can factor in, but it doesn’t matter to us as long as we win. That’s a great position to be in and we’ve got to go do something about it.”
• If the Warriors lose they could finish anywhere from sixth to ninth — they essentially come in last in any tiebreaker scenario with a combination of the Clippers, Pelicans and Lakers.
• If the Warriors win, the Lakers will finish in the play-in.
• The loser of the Pelicans vs. Timberwolves game will be the No.9 seed in the West (and host the Thunder in a win-or-go-home game Wednesday).
• The Pelicans are the one team that can finish anywhere from fifth to ninth.
• By the way, the East playoffs are locked in.
• The top four seeds in the West are locked in: Denver is first, followed by Memphis, Sacramento and Phoenix. Whatever seeds 5-9 end up being, that is where the teams and stars with playoff experience are — Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard — making the West ripe for first-round playoff upsets, something rare in the NBA.
But we have to get through a dramatic final day of the season first.