LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the 3rd quarter of the game against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on October 18, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images


  • The Western Conference playoff picture is the messiest it has been in years
  • Only a handful of games separate the playoff-bound No. 5 seed and play-in seeds of No. 7 through 10
  • The Thunder currently have the best chances of securing the final play-in spot

The Western Conference is as open as ever for the first time in years, and while the top three seeds are more or less locked in, the fight for the middle seeds until the final spots is extremely narrow.

Entering the game with identical 41-38 records, the Los Angeles Lakers took on cross-town rival Los Angeles Clippers for the right to hold the fifth seed and set up a possible matchup with the fourth-seeded Phoenix Suns in the opening round of the playoffs.

However, the Clippers extended their winning streak over the Lakers to 11 games with a dominant 125-118 victory which featured a lead that ballooned to 24 at one point.

Between the fifth seed and 10th seed, all six teams are separated by just a handful of games.

The Clippers currently hold sole possession of the fifth seed over the Golden State Warriors thanks to a Pacific Division record of 8-7 compared to the latter's 6-9.

With the loss, the Lakers were bumped to seventh and now share a similar record with the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, while the Minnesota Timberwolves (40-40), sitting at ninth, are just a game behind both teams.

All of the aforementioned teams have clinched a play-in spot at the very least which leaves the 10th spot up for grabs between three franchises: the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz.

As it stands, the Thunder have the likeliest chances of securing the position as they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Mavericks despite having similar records while their game against the Jazz later tonight will have massive implications of its own.

Oklahoma City currently holds the lead over fellow Northwest Division team Utah with a head-to-head record of 2-1, but a loss would be devastating to their play-in hopes.

The Jazz have the longest chances of making it into the play-in with a record of 36-43 after a blistering start to the season as they must pull off wins against powerhouse teams Denver Nuggets and Lakers to close out their season and possibly knock off the Thunder.

For Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, they only have two games left on their schedule as well: both home games against the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs.

With how the Mavericks have performed since acquiring Kyrie Irving, both games have even odds of ending up either way as their woes on the defensive end have overshadowed their success on offense and led to their current predicament.

Although the Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns are all assured of a playoff spot, all four teams have no idea who they are facing just yet as the scramble for the final seeds makes the last few days of NBA action a must-watch for basketball fans.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts after a three-point shot against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 23, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Thunder 113-101. Christian Petersen/Getty Images