Week in Review: Tiebreakers
Dunk of the year? Maybe, man. Maybe.
41 rebounds, 22 assists
Is it likely that Russell Westbrook will again average a triple-double? No, but he’s actually pretty darn close. He needs just 41 rebounds (13.6 RPG) and 22 assists (7.3 APG) over the next three games to achieve the feat.
This was pretty cool.
Late Game Mis-Execution
After clawing back from a double-digit deficit, the Thunder held a one-point lead against the Denver Nuggets with just over 25 seconds left. Russell Westbrook makes an aggressive play, attacking the rim and coming up with an explosive dunk to push the lead to three. After a quick two by the Nuggets to cut the lead back to one, Paul George is fouled, and, in typical Thunder fashion, misses the first before making the second. A Will Barton layup ties it up, and Westbrook catches the inbounds pass with nine seconds to go. He then dribbles aimlessly before launching a 27-footer.
Nine seconds is plenty of time to run a play, and yet, in a game the Thunder absolutely needed to win, Billy Donovan drew up a play that had four guys go stand on the perimeter to watch Russ heave a desperation three.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Seriously, watch the play. There is no movement. No screens set. Nothing, nada, zilch. It’s pass the ball into Westbrook, so that he, a 30 percent three-point shooter, can brick a three.
Missing free throws. Poor defensive execution. Missing open shots. And just downright sloppy play-calling. It’s like the Thunder is in the middle of the most perplexing tank job in NBA history.
So let’s assume the Thunder isn’t trying its hand at a disguised tank. There are three games left and the Western Conference playoff race is about as tight as can be. Since just three games separate fourth place from tenth place, tiebreakers become pretty important. Unfortunately, the Thunder is on the wrong end of those.
OKC owns tiebreakers over the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder loses tiebreakers to the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, and Denver Nuggets. OKC split the season-series with the Spurs, which means alternate tiebreakers would come into play should the Thunder and Spurs finish with identical records.
There are about fourteen million permutations for potential playoff seeding in the West, so I’m going to try to make this breakdown simple.
- If the Thunder goes 3-0
- Highest seed: 4. The Thunder cannot catch the Trail Blazers who are currently in third.
- Lowest seed: 7. The Spurs, Pelicans, and T-Wolves could all finish with the same or better record than the Thunder, and OKC would lose any tiebreakers.
- If the Thunder goes 2-1
- Highest seed: 4.
- Lowest Seed: 8. The Thunder could finish with identical records to the Spurs, T-Wolves, and Pelicans, and could lose every single tiebreaker to push them to the 8th seed.
- If the Thunder goes 1-2
- Highest seed: 4.
- Lowest seed: Out of the playoffs. By virtue of tiebreakers, the Thunder could miss out on the playoffs entirely.
- If the Thunder goes 0-3
- Highest seed: 7. Tiebreakers make anything higher virtually impossible.
- Lowest seed: Out of the playoffs. Yup, tiebreakers would probably result in the Thunder missing out.
And one more makes seven….
The good news is that the Thunder controls its own destiny. Win at least two of three, and OKC makes the playoffs, but what about the other teams?
Well, here’s a handy dandy guide for who to root for:
- Friday, April 6
- Suns over Pelicans
- Lakers over Timberwolves
- Saturday, April 7
- Clippers over Nuggets
- Warriors over Pelicans
- Trail Blazers over Spurs
- Sunday, April 8
- Lakers over Jazz
- Monday, April 9
- Grizzlies over Timberwolves
- Kings over Spurs
- Trail Blazers over Nuggets
- Clippers over Pelicans
- Tuesday, April 10
- Warriors over Jazz
- Wednesday, April 11
- Timberwolves over Nuggets
- Pelicans over Spurs (This assumes other games play out as hoped. There are scenarios where a Spurs win would be more beneficial.)
- Trail Blazers over Jazz
Here’s how I see the final week of the season playing out:
The Thunder will lose to the Rockets but close out with wins over the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies to finish the year 47-35. The Jazz continue their strong play and finish on a streak and a 49-33 record to take the four-seed. The Spurs manage to eke out a record of 48-34 to take fifth, while the T-Wolves and Pelicans both finish with the same record as the Thunder at 47-35. Since the Thunder loses tiebreakers to both squads, OKC drops to the eighth-seed and get a dreaded match-up against the Houston Rockets. The T-Wolves take sixth (as a result of owning the tiebreaker over the Pelicans), leaving the Pelicans as lucky number seven.