With just weeks left in the 2014–2015 regular season, the Western Conference playoff race is almost over.
Only nine teams remain in the running, and the New Orleans Pelicans are now an outside shot. The most important thing to determine is the first-round matchups, which could make or break teams in the rugged West.
The Golden State Warriors are locked in at the first seed, and the Oklahoma City Thunder appear locked in as the eighth seed.
The other seed that looks pretty much locked in are the Dallas Mavericks at seven, but that could potentially change. And less than three games separate the second and sixth seeds.
Let’s take a look at the complete picture:
1. Golden State Warriors: 61–13
2. Memphis Grizzlies: 51–24, 10.5 games back
3. Houston Rockets: 50–24, 11 games back
4. Portland Trail Blazers: 48–25, 12.5 games back
5. Los Angeles Clippers: 49–26, 12.5 games back
6. San Antonio Spurs: 48–26, 13 games back
7. Dallas Mavericks: 45–29, 16 games back
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: 42–32, 19 games back
New Orleans Pelicans: 39–34, 21.5 games back
The Trail Blazers are on top of the Northwest Division, and can therefore fall no lower than fourth. But if the Clippers or Spurs end up with a better record in fifth place, they get homecourt advantage in the first round.
Keep in mind that the Warriors, and possibly some other teams, will be resting players throughout these two weeks. Denver has already rested players despite not being in the playoff race, and DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings—a team not even in the playoff race—recently rested a game.
The most fun in the rest of the regular season comes from head-to-head matchups within these nine teams.
Besides typically producing exciting games, the matchups will help determine playoff seeding due to wins/losses but also to tiebreakers in case two or more teams end up with the same records.
Let’s look at the remaining head-to-heads:
Mavericks at Thunder, April 1
Clippers at Trail Blazers, April 1
Rockets at Mavericks, April 2
Thunder at Grizzlies, April 3
Warriors at Mavericks, April 4
Pelicans at Trail Blazers, April 4
Rockets at Thunder, April 5
Warriors at Spurs, April 5
Warriors at Pelicans, April 7
Spurs at Thunder, April 7
Pelicans at Grizzlies, April 8
Rockets at Spurs, April 8
Trail Blazers at Warriors, April 9
Spurs at Rockets, April 10
Grizzlies at Clippers, April 11
Pelicans at Rockets, April 12
Trail Blazers at Thunder, April 13
Grizzlies at Warriors, April 13
Trail Blazers at Mavericks, April 15
Spurs at Pelicans, April 15
Warriors beat Mavericks, lose to Spurs, lose to Pelicans, beat Blazers, lose to Grizzlies
Rockets beat Mavericks, beat Thunder, lose to Spurs, beat Spurs, beat Pelicans
Grizzlies lose to Thunder, lose to Pelicans, lose to Clippers, beat Warriors
Blazers lose to Clippers, beat Pelicans, lose to Warriors, beat Thunder, lose to Mavericks
Clippers beat Blazers, beat Grizzlies
Spurs beat Warriors, beat Thunder, beat Rockets, lose to Rockets, lose to Pelicans
Mavericks lose to Thunder, lose to Rockets, lose to Warriors, beat Blazers
Thunder beat Mavericks, beat Grizzlies, lose to Rockets, lose to Spurs, lose to Blazers
Pelicans lose to Blazers, beat Grizzlies, beat Warriors, lose to Rockets, beat Spurs
Records don’t mean as much at this time of the season, especially for several improving teams.
The Utah Jazz stormed out of the All-Star break as the best defensive team in the league, while the Indiana Pacers got hot as well.
The Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, and Brooklyn Nets are three other teams that are better than their records indicate.
Here are matchups for the West teams in the playoff race against improving teams:
Rockets versus Kings, April 1
Pelicans at Kings, April 3
Spurs versus Nuggets, April 3
Clippers at Nuggets, April 4
Trail Blazers at Nets, April 6
Thunder versus Kings, April 10
Grizzlies at Jazz, April 10
Mavericks at Nuggets, April 10
Trail Blazers versus Jazz, April 11
Thunder at Pacers, April 12
Rockets at Hornets, April 13
Mavericks at Jazz, April 13
Clippers versus Nuggets, April 13
Rockets versus Jazz, April 15
Grizzlies versus Pacers, April 15
Warriors versus Nuggets, April 15
Warriors beat Nuggets
Rockets beat Kings, beat Hornets, lose to Jazz
Grizzlies lose to Jazz, lose to Pacers
Blazers lose to Nets, beat Jazz
Clippers lose to Nuggets, beat Nuggets
Spurs beat Nuggets
Mavericks lose to Nuggets, beat Jazz
Thunder beat Kings, lose to Pacers
Pelicans beat Kings
While some teams are improving, others aren’t or aren’t enough to make much of a difference.
That includes several teams in the West–the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, for instance.
Check out the remaining games against easier opponents:
Spurs at Magic, April 1
Pelicans at Lakers, April 1
Trail Blazers at Lakers, April 3
Clippers at Lakers, April 5
Clippers versus Lakers, April 7
Trail Blazers versus Timberwolves, April 8
Warriors versus Timberwolves, April 11
Mavericks at Lakers, April 12
Pelicans at Timberwolves, April 13
Thunder at Timberwolves, April 15
Warriors beat Timberwolves
Blazers beat Lakers, beat Timberwolves
Clippers beat Lakers, beat Lakers
Spurs beat Magic
Mavericks beat Lakers
Thunder beat Timberwolves
Pelicans beat Lakers, beat Timberwolves
A small pocket of games doesn’t fit into any of the above categories. The Suns aren’t horrible but they aren’t really improving either, for instance.
Some Eastern Conference teams, such as the Raptors and Wizards, have actually gotten worse as the season has progressed.
Here’s the rest of the games:
Warriors versus Suns, April 2
Grizzlies versus Wizards, April 4
Mavericks versus Suns, April 8
Pelicans versus Suns, April 10
Spurs versus Suns, April 12
Clippers at Suns, April 14
Warriors beat Suns
Grizzlies beat Wizards
Clippers lose to Suns
Spurs beat Suns
Mavericks lose to Suns
Pelicans beat Suns
1. Golden State Warriors: 61-13 + 5-3 = 66-16
2. Houston Rockets: 51-24 + 6-3 = 57-27 … Former Rockets starter Chandler Parsons awaits in first round
3. Los Angeles Clippers: 49-26 + 5-2 = 54-28 … L.A. holds the tiebreaker over the Spurs, so gets the third seed
4. Portland Trail Blazers: 48-25 + 5-4 = 53-29 … Blazers get a rough first-round matchup with the defending champions
5. San Antonio Spurs: 48-26 + 6-2 = 54-28 … San Antonio gets homecourt advantage thanks to the better record
6. Memphis Grizzlies: 51-24 + 2-5 = 53-29
7. Dallas Mavericks: 45-29 + 3-5 = 48-34
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: 42-32 + 4-4 = 46-36 … Thunder to try to snag a series without Kevin Durant
New Orleans Pelicans: 39-34 + 6-3 = 45-37 … Narrowly missing the playoffs could cost Monty Williams his job