The battle for the West’s top seed

The playoffs are only a couple weeks away. The big question left for the San Antonio Spurs is whether or not they’ll be the top seed in the West or they’ll be number two behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re currently a game behind the Thunder but tied in the loss column. They have 10 games to go while the Thunder only have eight, so since the Spurs own the tiebreaker, they only need to win out to claim the top spot.

While I don’t see the Spurs ending the season on a 10-game win streak, the top spot and home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs is still a possibility.

The Spurs split their remaining 10 games in half: five on the road, five at home. The Thunder have to play five on the road and three at home. We can give the advantage to the Spurs there. Both teams are extremely tough at home but are beatable on the road.

The Spurs have to play the Lakers two more times, which is not a good thing if they play the same way they played last night. They also have to play the Suns, who are desperately trying to make the playoffs and the Grizzlies who are trying to move up as high as the three-seed. Those could be tough games against teams who will put everything they have into trying to beat the Spurs, but luckily, both those games are in San Antonio. They play Golden State twice, should be two wins even though both those games are on the road. At home against Cleveland and Portland should also be two wins. The game at Sacramento can be tough if the Spurs don’t focus on it. The Kings have beaten some good teams at home, so the Spurs better watch out.

Speaking of the Kings, the Thunder have to play them three times in their last eight games. Only one of those is on the road where OKC has already lost their only meeting of the year so far. The other two against the Kings and one against Denver are the only home games the Thunder have left, and they should be easy wins. But they have to play at the Clippers, at the Lakers, at the Timberwolves and at the Suns, which are all going to be very tough games. The Clippers and Lakers are going to want to beat the Western Conference favorite to get some confidence before the playoffs start, and I’m sure the Suns and Timberwolves would love to play spoiler.  The Thunder have a huge target on their backs, which is going to make this final stretch very tough for them.

8-2 may be a lot to ask from the Spurs down the stretch. Coach Pop has already shown that he doesn’t want to burn out his players just to get the top seed and then falter in the playoffs because everyone is too tired. If the Spurs can pull off 7-3, I think there’s a good chance the Thunder finish their last 8 games at 5-3 and the Spurs take the top spot with the tiebreaker. That may be a little too optimistic, but the Thunder have a tough end to their season. It may come down to the final couple of games, and then it will be interesting to see how badly the Spurs want that number one seed.

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