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8th seed primer: What to watch for as the Warriors playoff opponent gets determined

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The season ends tomorrow, and the Warriors still don’t know their first round playoff opponent. Here’s everything you need to know.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA regular season ends tomorrow, and the Golden State Warriors still don’t have an opponent for the first round of the playoffs. The Dubs have clinched the top seed in the Western Conference, but the eighth seed is still way up for grabs.

There are three potential first round opponents for Golden State: The Los Angeles Clippers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the San Antonio Spurs.

By the end of Wednesday, those teams will have sorted themselves into the sixth, seventh, and eighth slots in the West, and we’ll know what the matchups will be.

Since there are so many moving parts, and the teams are so close, it can be fun to know what to look for. Here’s everything you need to know about the race for those spots, and the tiebreakers that could potentially come into play, so you can keep track of who is lined up to face the Dubs.

The records

Thunder: 47-33, currently the sixth seed
Spurs: 47-34, currently the seventh seed
Clippers: 47-34, currently the eighth seed

Games remaining

Thunder: Hosting the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, at the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday
Spurs: Hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday
Clippers: Hosting the Utah Jazz on Wednesday

On paper, the Spurs have the easiest schedule, by far. In reality, that could change a little bit depending on the standings, and the strategies that teams employ. The Bucks, for instance, have already wrapped up the top seed in the NBA, so they may rest players for the season finale. The Jazz may have their seed determined by tomorrow, and have nothing to play for.

No tiebreakers

Despite the congestion, there’s still a decent chance that tiebreakers are not needed to determine the eighth seed. If the Clippers lose, while the Spurs win, and the Thunder win at least one of their games, then LA will face Golden State. Likewise, if the Spurs lose but the Clippers win, and the Thunder win at least one of their games, then Golden State will match up with San Antonio.

And if the Thunder lose both of their games - quite a possibility, given their opponents - while the Clippers and Spurs win, then Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will get to meet up in the first round of the playoffs.

Two-team tiebreakers

It’s very likely that two teams end up tied for the seventh and eighth spots, with one team clinching the sixth spot. In that case, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record this season.

Let’s look at all the possible iterations that result in a seventh/eighth seed tie:

1. The Spurs and Thunder will tie if San Antonio loses their game, Los Angeles wins their game, and Oklahoma City loses both of their games.

If this happens, the Spurs will win the tiebreaker by virtue of winning two out of three games against the Thunder this season. Oklahoma City would be the eighth seed.

2. The Spurs and Clippers will tie if they both lose their final game, and the Thunder win at least one of their two games. They will also tie if they both win their final game, and the Thunder go 2-0.

Los Angeles and San Antonio split their four-game series this year, which means we go to the next tiebreakers. The next applicable record is conference play, where the Spurs are 29-22, and the Clippers are 27-24. San Antonio would win the tiebreaker, and Los Angeles would be the eighth seed.

3. The Clippers and Thunder will tie if Los Angeles loses their game, San Antonio wins their game, and Oklahoma City loses both of their games.

If this were to happen, we would again go to the conference play tiebreaker, but wait! Both teams have conference records of 27-24, and if this scenario plays out, they’ll both finish 27-25.

So we move to the next tiebreaker, which is record against playoff teams within the conference. The Clippers have struggled against the top teams in the West, going just 9-16 against fellow playoff teams (that will fall to 9-17 if this scenario plays out).

The Thunder on the other hand have done rather well, largely because they’ve gone 4-0 against both the Jazz and the Portland Trail Blazers. Their record against conference playoff teams is 14-11 (14-12 if this scenario plays out).

So the Thunder win this tiebreak scenario, and Los Angeles would be the eighth seed.

Three-team tiebreakers

Last, but certainly not least, is this possibility: The Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers could finish in a three-way tie. This would happen if all three teams lose their remaining games, or if the Thunder split their final two, while the Spurs and Clippers finish with wins.

Should this happen, the first tiebreaker is record against the other tied teams. The Spurs went 4-3 against the Thunder and Clippers, which would give them the sixth seed. The Clippers went 4-4, and would be the seventh seed. The Thunder went 3-4, and would be the eighth seed.

So if a three-way tie occurs, Golden State faces Oklahoma City.

The final tally

With four games left to be played by these three teams, there are many, many different finishes that can happen. Here are all the scenarios for each team, ranked by who has the most paths to face the Warriors.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles has six scenarios which result in being the eighth seed. The Clippers will face the Warriors if:

1. They lose on Wednesday, San Antonio wins on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City wins on Tuesday.
2. They lose on Wednesday, and both San Antonio and Oklahoma City win on Wednesday.
3. They lose on Wednesday, San Antonio loses on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City wins on Tuesday.
4. They lose on Wednesday, San Antonio loses on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City wins on Wednesday.
5. They win on Wednesday, San Antonio wins on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City wins on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
6. They lose on Wednesday, San Antonio wins on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City loses on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City has five scenarios which result in being the eighth seed. The Thunder will face the Warriors if:

1. They lose on Tuesday and Wednesday, and both San Antonio and Los Angeles win on Wednesday.
2. They lose on Tuesday and Wednesday, San Antonio loses on Wednesday, and Los Angeles wins on Wednesday
3. They lose on Tuesday and Wednesday, and both San Antonio and Los Angeles lose on Wednesday
4. They lose on Tuesday, win on Wednesday, and both San Antonio and Los Angeles win on Wednesday
5. They win on Tuesday, lose on Wednesday, and both San Antonio and Los Angeles win on Wednesday

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio has two scenarios which result in being the eighth seed. The Spurs will face the Warriors if:

1. They lose on Wednesday, Los Angeles wins on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City wins on Tuesday
2. They lose on Wednesday, and both Los Angeles and Oklahoma City win on Wednesday

Whew! Exhausted yet?

In conclusion, anything can happen!