DimeMag

Every Possible Scenario For The Western Conference Play-In Series

With just two games left for most teams in the NBA’s seeding round, the drama almost completely lies in the Western Conference. With the Wizards eliminated from playoff contention in the East and the top three seeds all locked into place, the only room for movement is from 4-6 and while that can matter some for who faces Boston in the first round, it isn’t the most compelling race between Philly and Indiana.

In the West, however, there is likewise seeding to be finalized in the middle, but the best race is for the play-in series (which is now guaranteed to happen). Memphis, after a dismal 1-5 start, is just a half game ahead of Portland for the all-important 8-seed (because the 9-seed has to win two games over the 8 to make the playoffs, while the 8 only needs to win one). Phoenix and San Antonio are both just a half game behind Portland for ninth — with the Suns owning the tiebreaker between those two — and with all teams set to play two games, chaos may be afoot.

All four teams are in action on Tuesday, which means we may have more clarity depending on the outcomes of these games.

Rockets v. Spurs (2 p.m. ET)
Suns v. Sixers (4:30 p.m. ET)
Celtics v. Grizzlies (5 p.m. ET)
Blazers v. Mavericks (6:30 p.m. ET)

The simplest way for this to be decided today would be for the Spurs and Suns to lose and the Grizzlies and Blazers to win. That would lock us into Portland-Memphis in the play-in round, with their Thursday games deciding who has what position — Memphis can also be guaranteed a spot if Phoenix and San Antonio lose, even if they also lose as they own tiebreakers over both. However, with Philly without its top three stars, the expectation is that the Suns will have a great chance to move to 7-0 and things will not be so tidy — also the Celtics and Mavs figure to be anything but pushovers, pending Dallas resting players.

Here is Thursday’s schedule for these four teams as well.

Bucks v. Grizzlies (4:00 p.m. ET)
Mavs v. Suns (4:00 p.m. ET)
Spurs v. Jazz (6:30 p.m. ET)
Blazers v. Nets (9:00 p.m. ET)

With that in mind, here are the various scenarios for each team making the play-in series.

Memphis: Win two games, and you’re in and guaranteed the 8-seed. Win one game, and you’re in. Lose two games but have Phoenix and San Antonio each lose once, and you’re in.

Portland: Win two games, and you’re in (earn the 8-seed if Memphis loses a game). Win one game and have Phoenix and San Antonio lose one game, and you’re in (earn the 8-seed if Memphis loses two games). Lose two games, but have Phoenix and San Antonio lose two games, and you’re in.

Phoenix: Win two games and Portland loses one game, and you’re in. Win two games and Memphis loses two games, and you’re in (both of these happen together, and earn the 8-seed). Win one game, Portland loses two games, San Antonio loses one game, and you’re in.

San Antonio: Win two games, Portland and Phoenix both lose one game, and you’re in. Win two games, Memphis loses two games, Phoenix loses one game, and you’re in (earn 8-seed if Portland also loses one game in this scenario). Win one game, Portland and Phoenix both lose two games, and you’re in.

On a more specific note, here is how each matchup can happen for this weekend’s play-in series.

Memphis (8) v. Portland (9): Memphis and Portland each win two games. Memphis wins two games, Portland wins one, Phoenix and San Antonio each lose at least one game. Memphis, Portland, Phoenix, and San Antonio each lose one game. Memphis, Portland, Phoenix and San Antonio each lose two games.

Memphis (8) v. Phoenix (9): Memphis wins at least one game, Phoenix wins two games, Portland loses at least one game. Phoenix wins one game, San Antonio loses at least one game, Portland loses two games.

Memphis (8) v. San Antonio (9): Memphis wins at least one game, San Antonio wins two games, Portland and Phoenix each lose at least one game. San Antonio wins one game, Portland and Phoenix each lose two games.

Portland (8) v. Memphis (9): Portland wins two games, Memphis wins one game. Portland wins one game, Memphis loses two games, Phoenix and San Antonio each lose at least one game.

Portland (8) v. Phoenix (9): Portland and Phoenix win two games, Memphis loses two games.

Portland (8) v. San Antonio (9): Portland and San Antonio win two games, Memphis loses two games.

Phoenix (8) v. Memphis (9): Phoenix wins two games, San Antonio loses at least one game, Memphis and Portland lose two games.

Phoenix (8) v. Portland (9): Phoenix wins two games, San Antonio loses at least one game, Portland wins one game, Memphis loses two games.

Phoenix (8) v. San Antonio (9): Phoenix and San Antonio win two games, Memphis loses two games, Portland loses at least one game.

San Antonio (8) v. Memphis (9): San Antonio wins two games, Memphis and Portland loses two games, Phoenix loses one game.

San Antonio (8) v. Portland (9): San Antonio wins two games, Portland wins one game, Memphis loses two games, Phoenix loses one game.

It’s going to be a furious finish in the West and this afternoon’s action will determine who is still in the race. Wins by all four would keep everyone in it for Thursday. A San Antonio loss coupled with either a Phoenix or Portland win will eliminate them. A Memphis win locks them in. Phoenix is eliminated with a loss and a Portland win. Portland cannot be eliminated, but can lose the chance for the 8-seed with a loss (and lose control of their destiny).

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