NBA West playoff picture, standings, matchups, projections: Warriors, Nugge
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Gradelo Staff
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Less than a month remains in the NBA regular season and there is still so much up for grabs, including both No. 1 seeds and a three-team logjam for home-court advantage in the West. What follows is everything you need to know about where things stand entering Thursday, March 14. Team are listed in order of projected finishing seed. This post will continue to update for the remainder of the season as we keep track right down to the wire. 

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times to produce the most unbiased and precise projections imaginable.

Fight for No. 1

Golden State Warriors (No. 1 seed)

Playing without Kevin Durant, Golden State got back on track with a 106-104 win over Houston on Wednesday night to maintain its slim lead over the Nuggets for the top spot out West. They’ve got a couple tough games coming up, and one matchup with the Nuggets still remaining. The Warriors have been vocal about wanting the No. 1 seed, if only as a goal to aim at as they prioritize getting in a groove down the stretch. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Three
  • SportsLine Projection: 86 percent to earn No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .487 (13th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Thunder, at Spurs, vs. Timberwolves
  • Tiebreaker: Currently own tiebreaker 2-1 over Denver (one matchup left)

Denver Nuggets (No. 2 seed)

Denver has a tough go down the stretch with 11 of its final 16 games against current playoff teams. Mike Malone has said he doesn’t even talk about the No. 1 seed with his team; they’re just keeping their head down until the finish line. Frankly, the No. 1 seed isn’t as important for the Nuggets because as the No. 2 seed, the only potential series in which they wouldn’t have home-court advantage is the conference finals. If they make it that far, they’re playing with house money anyway. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Five
  • SportsLine Projection: 6.3 percent to earn No. 1 seed
  • Remaining games: 16 (nine road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .536 (ninth-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Mavericks. vs. Pacers, at Celtics
  • Tiebreaker: Currently trail Warriors 2-1 head-to-head (one matchup left)

Fighting for Home-Court Advantage

Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 3 seed)

The Thunder currently hold the slimmest of leads on the No. 3 seed but our projections have them falling to No. 5. The Thunder got big wins over Brooklyn and Utah in their last two, but it gets tough from here. Four of their next five are against the Pacers, Warriors and Raptors twice. The good news is their schedule, though against tough opponents, is home-heavy the rest of the way. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Seven
  • SportsLine Projection: 16 percent to earn No. 3 seed, 46.7 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (nine home, five road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .580 (third-toughest in league)
  • Next three games: at Pacers, vs. Warriors, vs. Heat
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over both Houston and Portland

Houston Rockets (No. 4 seed)

Houston is currently No. 4 in the West but our projections have them vaulting to No. 3 by season’s end. The West No. 3 spot is a swing seed because whoever ends up there would avoid the Warriors — assuming they finish No. 1 — until the conference finals, while the 4-5 seeds would have to battle each other for the right to see Golden State in Round 2.  

Eric Gordon recently said he believes the Rockets are the only team that can knock off Golden State, and he’s perhaps right in the sense that nobody has given the Warriors as much trouble over the last two years. The Rockets are 3-1 vs. the Warriors this season and 8-6 over the past two years, including that seven-game WCF last season. One thing to keep in mind: Houston cannot win the tiebreaker vs. OKC or Portland if this thing comes down to a dead heat, which it very well could. The Rockets have already lost both those season series.

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Seven
  • SportsLine Projection: 38.5 percent to earn No. 3 seed, 82.8 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (seven home, seven road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .462 (seventh-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Suns, vs. Timberwolves, at Hawks
  • Tiebreaker: Already lost tiebreaker to both OKC and Portland

Portland Trail Blazers (No. 5 seed)

The Blazers currently sit at No. 5 but our projections have them reaching No. 4. Portland, winners of two straight, currently holds the tiebreaker over Houston if it comes to that, but it has already lost the tiebreaker to OKC. Again, getting to No. 3 would be the big thing to avoid Golden State until the conference finals. There’s no other team Portland wouldn’t at least have a shot to beat. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: Eight
  • SportsLine Projection: 21 percent to earn No. 3 seed, 58.6 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .490 (14th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Pelicans, at Spurs, vs. Pacers
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Houston, lost tiebreaker to OKC

Rounding Out the Field

San Antonio Spurs (No. 6 seed)

The Spurs are currently No. 6 in the West but our projections have them sliding to No. 7 — largely because of current 7-seed Utah’s super-soft remaining schedule. The Spurs also have a pretty soft, home-heavy schedule down the stretch. They have already lost the tiebreaker to Utah and hold a slim tiebreaker edge over the Clippers (2-2 head-to-head) via a better conference record, which is far from cemented. San Antonio is getting hot at the right time, having won six straight including victories over the Bucks, Nuggets and Thunder. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 10
  • SportsLine Projection: 99.9 percent to make playoffs, 4.4 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 14 (eight home, six road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .462 (seventh-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Knicks, vs. Blazers, vs. Warriors
  • Tiebreaker: Currently owns tiebreaker over Clippers via conference record; already lost tiebreaker to Jazz

Utah Jazz (No. 7 seed)

The Jazz are currently No. 7 in the West but our projections have them reaching No. 6 because they have the softest schedule in the league down the stretch. But they have to take advantage. Its last two losses have come to the Pelicans and the Grizzlies. It’s not out of the question that Utah can get on a run against some weak opponents and make it to a top-four seed. Entering Thursday, the Jazz are only three games back in the loss column of the No. 4 spot. At the same time, they’re only four games up on the No. 9 Kings. They’re most likely fighting with the Spurs and Clippers for seeds 6-8. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 11
  • SportsLine Projection: 99.9 percent to make playoffs, 8.4 percent to get top-four seed
  • Remaining games: 15 (eight home, seven road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .414 (easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Timberwolves, vs. Nets, at Wizards
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Spurs and Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers (No. 8 seed)

The Clippers have won five of six and continue to be one of the best stories in the league — depending on your perspective. If the Clippers make the playoffs, they lose their 2019 first-round pick, which is lottery protected, to the Celtics. When they traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers, there was some thought that they were looking to fall out of the playoff race and into the lottery, which would allow them to keep that pick. That doesn’t look like it’s going to be the case. 

  • Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: 10
  • SportsLine Projection: 97.6 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 13 (eight home, five road)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .467 (ninth-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: vs. Bulls, vs. Nets, vs. Pacers
  • Tiebreaker: Already lost tiebreaker to Jazz, currently losing tiebreaker to Spurs via conference record

Outside Looking In

Sacramento Kings (No. 9 seed)

Sacramento is 4.5 games back — three in the loss column — of the final playoff spot. 

  • SportsLine Projection: 0.5 percent to make playoffs
  • Remaining games: 16 (nine road, seven home)
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .476 (11th-easiest in league)
  • Next three games: at Celtics, at 76ers, vs. Bulls
  • Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Spurs, already lost tiebreaker to Clippers, 

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