OKC Thunder ascend into play-in tournament seeding

OKC Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11): Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11): Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The OKC Thunder are on a roll of late collecting victories against upper-echelon teams. They just completed a four-game road trip beating three teams that were all preseason projected playoff seeds.

Although they lost in Miami, it was by a single point and required the Heat to be perfect from their generous 40 free throw attempts they made at the charity stripe.  Thunderous Intentions has been suggesting the team could be breaking into the play-in group and they begin this day no longer on the precipe of breaking through but having entered into that seeding segment.

OKC Thunder move up to 10th and the play-in tournament seeding

With the Trail Blazers’ loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday, the resulting effect was Portland dropped to 11th on the Western ladder. Simultaneously, it pushed the OKC Thunder up to the 10th rung. While the OKC Thunder still have 38 games to play the fact this young squad is even in the conversation speaks to how well they’re playing.

If the season were to end today,  the OKC Thunder would play the defending champion Warriors for a shot to move into the playoffs.

And while that seems like Fool’s Gold the reality is OKC is much closer to the sixth seed than simply staying put in 10th or dropping back out of the play-in.

Entering games on Wednesday, the West can be broken into distinct tiers. At the very top are the Nuggets and Grizzlies who distanced themselves from the rest of the Conference.

Conversely, at the very bottom the Rockets and Spurs have separated themselves so much from the group immediately above them no one will be able to lose enough in the second half to take away their prime lottery position.

That leaves 11 teams in what I like to refer to as the ‘parity pack‘ with six games separating the third seed from the 13th seed. Technically, this tier could be split into two distinct groups but the reality is one or two weeks of consistent results can impact positioning for any of these teams. The Suns for example have plummeted to 12th but at one point held the top rung.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Kings took advantage of an easier schedule with more home games to climb all the way to fourth but have a seven-game road trip upcoming that could reverse their fortune.

Standings of teams seeded third through 12th:

The following shows where the teams reside and how many games they are up (or down) on the OKC Thunder:

3. Pelicans (26-18): +5

4. Kings (24-18): +4

5. Mavericks (24-21): +2.5

6. Clippers (23-23): +1

7. Warriors (22-22): +1

8. Jazz (22-24): +0.5

9. Wolves (22-23): +0.5

10. OKC Thunder (21-23) —

11. Trail Blazers (21-23): even – but the Thunder lead based on leading the season series 2-0

12. Suns (21-24) -0.5

13. Lakers (20-24) -2

Clearly, the six teams seeded sixth through 12th are an entity of their own with only 1.5 games separating them all.

Heading into action this evening the ladder could take an abrupt shift because four teams in this group of six (including the Thunder) are playing. Two (Clippers – Jazz) are playing each other while the Wolves play in Denver and the Thunder host the Pacers.

Thursday the Warriors (Celtics), Suns (Nets), and Blazers (76ers) all play upper-echelon East teams.

Given the teams involved, it’s feasible that the Jazz, Wolves, Warriors, Blazers, and Suns could all lose their next match and the OKC Thunder could win and find themselves sitting in seventh within less than 48 hours.

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