While the Warriors are still fighting to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference -- something that is unbelievably not yet guaranteed due to the San Antonio Spurs' own historic season -- tonight's game between the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets is important to keep an eye on as it will have a significant impact on clearing up the bottom of the playoff seeding.
There are currently just 3.5 games separating fifth and ninth place and with the Memphis Grizzlies essentially in free fall -- as described by Derek Knight in his preview of the Warriors' remaining games this week -- it's not even clear which four teams will make it in to the postseason field.
Western Conference standings on Wednesday. 3.5 games between Nos. 5-9. pic.twitter.com/MeXn6Sa5t2— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) April 6, 2016
It's a lot to sort out -- and SB Nation's national site has a breakdown of all the tiebreakers -- but Matt Moore of CBS Sports published a great primer this morning to help us understand why tonight's game(s) is so significant. He breaks down what's at stake for pretty much every team in the conference, but Dallas and Houston going head-to-head is obviously most pivotal.
Here's the short story of the implications of tonight's Mavs-Rockets game:
[The Mavericks are] in trouble, but at least the door is open. If they beat Houston, it'll put them a significant step ahead. On the other hand, if they lose, Houston catches them, and clinch tiebreaker. Dallas falls to the 8-seed with a loss, but will still hold conference record tiebreaker over Utah, pending their final matchup next week.
If the Mavericks beat the Rockets, the Rockets drop to 40 [losses], and the Jazz afer (sic) the Clippers loss drop to 40 as well. If both teams win out, they both finish with 43 wins and if the Mavs win out, the Mavs finish one game ahead. Due to Houston holding tiebreaker with conference record, the Jazz are then out of luck, slotted 9th.
So the Jazz may want the Rockets to win Wednesday...Wednesday is judgment day (for the Rockets), with this game vs. the Mavs. Lose, and they won't control their destiny. If they win, they secure tiebreaker over Dallas, and flip the Mavs behind them. It's a must-win.
And that's not even to mention the implications of tonight's game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers -- if the Blazers beat the third-place Thunder (who are expected to be resting) tonight, they clinch a playoff spot; lose, and things are still uncertain.
So, who should the Warriors (or just we as fans) want to win tonight?
Utah’s nightmare scenario: Dallas wins tomorrow, Houston wins out otherwise, Jazz lose to Clippers. Jazz lose on tiebreaker.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 6, 2016
In a poll published by Hugo Kitano on Saturday, half of the 615 voters preferred Houston to the other options. That means something that might be difficult to digest for tonight's games: you might want to root for James Harden and the Houston Rockets, which is something I'm not sure I can stomach (and, honestly, Houston falling into the lottery would make for more interesting offseason drama).
Anyway, without further ado, who are you rooting for tonight? Vote in the poll below and let us know who you picked in the comments.