With just about every team having to play one more game in the 2014-2015 NBA season, the playoff picture in the Western Conference is still very much undecided. Seven teams have already clinched a playoff berth, but the seeding could go in a number of different ways.
The Memphis Grizzlies are no longer in the race for the No.2 seed, leaving the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets fighting for that spot. The Golden State Warriors comfortably have the No.1 seed in the conference.
The Portland Trail Blazers are certain to finish with the sixth-best record in the West, but they are locked into the No.4 seed because they’ve clinched the Northwest Division title. They won’t have home-court advantage in the first round because the No.5 seed will have a better overall record. The New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder are competing for the final playoff spot.
All three teams vying for the No.2 seed have the same record, heading into the season’s final 24 hours. San Antonio is in the driver’s seat, but there’s still a chance that they’ll end up with the No.6 seed. In the last 31 years, only five teams have won the championship as a No.3 seed or worse.
Below is a look at the scenarios for the possible No.2 seed, as well as their chances of making a run in the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are the hottest team in the NBA. They’ve won 11 straight games, including victories over the best that the West has to offer. During their current stretch, San Antonio has beaten both Oklahoma City and Houston twice, while getting wins over Golden State, Dallas and Memphis. The defending champs have been utterly dominant, winning those seven games by an average of 17.7 points.
Sitting atop the Southwest Division, the Spurs control their own destiny for the No.2 seed. A win against the New Orleans Pelicans in their final regular-season game gives them home-court advantage against every team in the conference, except the Warriors. Only Golden State and the Atlanta Hawks have performed better at home than San Antonio and their 33-8 record.
During the first half of the season, it appeared that the Spurs might finish as low as the No.7 seed and have trouble advancing past the first round of the playoffs. But with a healthy Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard playing like a top-10 player, the Spurs have won 21 of their last 24 games. The Warriors remain the favorites in the West, but it’d come as no surprise to see Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan find themselves in another NBA Finals.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have lost more recently than the Spurs, but they’ve won just as much over their last 14 games. Los Angeles lost the first game of Blake Griffin’s return from staph infection, but they’ve gone 13-1 since then. They’ve won by being the best offensive team in basketball, leading the league with 109.8 points per 100 possessions. The Clippers have six players that are averaging more than 10 points per game.
L.A. has a very slim chance of getting the No.2 seed. Not only do they need a win in their season finale against the Phoenix Suns, but they’d have to get losses from both San Antonio and Houston. If the Clippers take care of business, they’ll likely lock down the No.3 seed, though they’ve already ensured themselves home-court advantage in the conference quarterfinals.
Los Angeles has taken advantage of a weak schedule, with nine of their last 13 wins coming against teams with a losing record. But their Big 3 of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan is as good as any team’s top three players. Jordan leads the league with 15 rebounds per game, and he’s a candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Paul is putting up his best numbers as a Clipper, and he’d be an MVP candidate in almost any other season.
Other than the Warriors, the Rockets have been the most consistent team in the West. While Houston hasn’t been in real contention for the No.1 seed for the entirety of 2015, they haven’t suffered any prolonged losing streaks, never losing more than two games in a row. Even though an injury kept Dwight Howard out for half of the season, the Rockets have remained near the top of the conference.
Houston was in sole possession of the No.2 seed a short while ago, but they’ll need help to regain it after suffering back-to-back losses to the Spurs. The Rockets need a victory over the Utah Jazz in their final game, and they need the Spurs to lose at New Orleans. San Antonio will have a tough game against a team looking to clinch a playoff berth, but the Rockets won’t have an easy time against Utah, who has won 21 of their last 31 games.
Only Stephen Curry has a better chance to win the MVP than James Harden. The shooting guard gives Houston a chance to win each game, ranking second in points (27.5) and ninth in assists (6.9) per game, while making 174 more free throws than any other player. The Rockets have been eliminated in the first round in each of the last two postseasons.