The race to the NBA Playoffs is reaching fever pitch with just 15 or 16 games remaining for most teams in the regular season. The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in second spot in the Western Conference with 14 games left to play and they trail the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the West by just 1.5 games. The San Antonio Spurs have 15 games remaining and already have the slender lead, but the real question is “Can the Thunder finish the season off strongly and steal that #1 seed?”
Neither side is going to relinquish the Best in the West mantle with ease, so it is going to take some big wins, tough contests and a little luck if the Thunder want to surpass the Spurs and grab themselves home court advantage right throughout the playoffs.
The San Antonio Spurs were the first team to 50 wins, utilizing an 11 game win streak (and counting) to surpass the Thunder who have looked shaky at times since the All Star break. It appears that the Thunder have finally found their groove though and while they are still trying to manage Russell Westbrook in order to have him 100% for the playoffs, they might need to find a way to win without him if they want to finish atop the west since he will be rested at various points during the run home.
Of the 14 games the Thunder have left to play, just six of them are at Chesapeake Arena and the other eight are road games. They have an equal balance of games between teams with a winning and losing record though (7 games against both teams above .500 and below .500) but also have a number of challenging games that could fall either way. The Spurs have seven homes games and eight away games with 9 games against .500 teams and just 6 games against opponents below .500.
The other interesting fact is that these sides still have one encounter against each other to be played on April 3rd. While the Thunder have taken the points in the previous three encounters (a very important regular season series win) this final match up might be the most important of all. Not only will both sides likely be near full strength (although the Thunder are still without Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha) but it will have an impact on the race to the #1 spot.
The Western Conference playoff picture is far from finished being painted, but while there is a lot of focus on the lower half of the standings and the fight to make the playoffs, the most interesting and influential one could be taking place at the very top of the table. Each game for both sides from now until the conclusion of the regular season will take on additional meaning and Thunder fans should be very excited.