The Oklahoma City Thunder will likely be the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference when the playoffs begin April 19.
The Thunder can’t be the No. 1 seed; the San Antonio Spurs rallied from 21 points down against the Phoenix Suns for a 112-104 win, thus clinching the best overall record in the NBA.
However, they could still drop to the No. 3 position, but only if the Thunder lose their remaining three games and the Clippers win their final three contests. If that happens, the Clippers would win the tiebreak for the No. 2 seed based on what would be a 37-15 conference record, compared to 36-16 for the Thunder.
That translates into one of four potential matchups in the first round for the Thunder, who could face the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies or Phoenix Suns.
Here are those matchups by how well the Thunder have stacked up against those opponents this season:
WORST: Thunder vs. Dallas—Mavericks won season series 2-1
The wild card in this series is that the Mavericks went into Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 16 and clubbed the Thunder 109-86. Oklahoma City won the first meeting, also at home, 107-93 on Nov. 6 and lost in overtime at Dallas 128-119 on March 25.
Here are some key team numbers from the regular-season series:
BAD: Thunder vs. Phoenix—Suns won season series 2-1
The home team won all three games in this series, with the Thunder picking up a 103-96 victory on Nov. 3 and the Suns winning by scores of 128-122 on March 6 and 122-115 on April 6.
Team numbers shake out like so:
BETTER: Thunder vs. Golden State—Oklahoma City won season series 2-1
This was a very even series, with the home team winning each game—although two of them came down to buzzer-beaters. Andre Iguodala hit the game-winner in the Warriors’ 116-115 win on Nov. 14 and Russell Westbrook hit the winning shot in a 113-112 overtime win for the Thunder on Nov. 29. OKC took the rubber match at home 127-121 on Jan. 17.
According to the numbers, the series broke down like this:
BEST: Thunder vs. Memphis—Oklahoma City won season series 3-1
The Thunder dominated this series, winning in Memphis 116-100 on Dec. 11 and sweeping the two games at home, 86-77 on Feb. 3 and 113-107 on Feb. 28. The Grizzlies’ lone win was a 90-87 triumph on Jan. 14.
By the numbers, the matchup breaks down this way:
While Oklahoma City would have to be considered the favorites against any of these opponents, Phoenix gave the Thunder fits at the 3-point line, holding them to 28.9 percent from deep. Golden State hit half of their 3-point attempts against OKC and would have to be considered to have at least a puncher’s chance. Phoenix had the most offensive success of the four and, as one might expect, the games with Memphis were much slower paced affairs.
But ultimately, even though it was the Grizzlies who knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs (sans Westbrook) last season, OKC matches up best with Memphis for a potential first-round series.
After a 3-1 week, Oklahoma City is 58-21 and are three games ahead of the Clippers for the second spot in the Western Conference. The week began with a loss at Phoenix on Sunday, but was followed up by a win at Sacramento Tuesday, a win at the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday and a win over the Pelicans on Friday.
Here is the week that was, including game reviews, some news and notes, injury updates, rookie watch, and player of the week selection, as well as a look ahead to next week’s action (all statistical information from NBA.com/Stats):