The end is near in the NBA and the regular season has gone pretty much as expected, at least in the West where the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder lead the conference as had been predicted at the start of the season. Entering Friday, six teams are already guaranteed of a spot in the playoffs, with the final two positions still up for grabs. Here is a brief online odds look at the Western Conference race and what can be expected as the regular season winds down and we usher in the do-or-die postseason games.
Betting Look to the NBA West Conference Playoff Race
Top 6 Seeds in the West are Locked Up
NBA MVP frontrunner Stephen Curry and the Warriors (70-9) will beat the Spurs for the No. 1 seed, following their 11-point win over San Antonio when the two teams met on Thursday night. Golden State can still set the single-season wins record (at 73), but a road game against San Antonio and two games against Memphis stand in the way of that. Whatever happens, it should be Golden State as the No. 1 seed and San Antonio (who sit 4.5 games behind the Warriors) as the No. 2 seed in the West, with both teams highly likely to meet each other in the Western Conference Championship Finals.
The OKC Thunder (54-25), currently placed 16 games behind Golden State, are all but a lock for the No. 3 seed, considering they are three-and-a-half games ahead of the fourth-placed Los Angeles Clippers. Memphis and Portland, currently placed fifth and sixth respectively cannot overtake the Clippers, as they both trail the Los Angeles by 8 games. We could, however, see Memphis and Portland trade positions at the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, depending on how both of them finish the season. Given that the injury-bugged Grizzlies still have to face Golden State twice before the season ends, my pick would be Portland (who have manageable games against Minnesota and Denver) to lock the No. 5 seed, with Memphis having to settle for the No. 6 seed, barring any major calamity in the remaining games.
Battle for the Final Two Slots in the West
The Dallas Mavericks (40-38), Utah Jazz (39-39) and Rockets (38-41) are still mathematically alive for the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in the West, though realistically speaking, Dallas and Utah will edge out Houston. This is because the slumping Rockets have been poor lately, losing their 7 of their last 10 games, including the last two in a row at Dallas and against a poor Phoenix team at home on Thursday night. Houston still has three winnable games (vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at Minnesota, and vs. Sacramento), but going by their poor form, I wouldn’t be surprised if they fail to measure up to the tasks. And even if they so happen to win out, their fate will still rest on the duo of Dallas and Utah, who are both 6-4 in their last 10 outings and don’t look like they’ll be crapping their pants down the stretch.
Now, in regards to who will take settle for No. 7 and No. 8 between Utah and Dallas, here are the main points to consider. The Mavericks, who are riding on a four-game winning streak and are one game ahead of Utah as we enter Friday, have four games left in their season (vs. Memphis, at Clippers, at Utah, vs. San Antonio Spurs. If Dallas can win at least two of these games–possibly against Memphis and crucially against Utah—it should lock up the No. 7 seed. That, however, is easier said than done, as Utah have a much-favorable slate—vs. LA Clippers, at Denver, vs. Dallas, at LA Lakers. With the manner the Jazz are playing now, winning out (or at least claiming three of the remaining four) is a possibility. So, in short, I fancy Utah beating Dallas to the No. 7 seed.
Playoff Seeding Predictions and Potential First Round Matchups
Considering the above discussions, here’s how we see the seeds playing out in the West:
- No. 1 Golden State
- No. 2 San Antonio
- No.3 Oklahoma City
- No. 4 LA Clippers
- No. 5 Portland
- No.6 Memphis
- No.7 Utah
- No. 8 Dallas
The potential first-round playoff matchups in the West should thus be as follows:
- 1 Golden State vs. 8 Dallas
- 2. San Antonio vs. 7 Utah
- 3. Oklahoma City vs. 6. Memphis
- 4. LA Clippers vs. 5 Portland
Golden State and San Antonio look the part of the teams likely to meet in Western Conference Finals, and rightfully so, with the Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant-led Thunder not lagging far off behind if they can sort out their late-game defensive lapses. Don’t, however, sleep on the Jazz and Trail Blazers, who are capable of shocking their way deep into the playoffs.