Who will the Spurs face in the first round?
With just two days left in the 2009-10 regular season, only the first and eighth spots in the Western Conference have been decided. After the Oklahoma City Thunder slipped up against a Brandon Roy-less Portland Trailblazers last night, the Thunder have booked themselves a first round date with the Los Angeles Lakers. As has been the case the last few seasons in the Western Conference, the race for the remaining six spots remains tight and messy.
Of all the teams in the conference yet to be seeded, the formula for the Spurs may be the simplest. If the Spurs lose, they’re the 7th seed. If Portland wins, the Spurs are the 7th seed. The only way San Antonio can earn the sixth spot is if Portland loses and the Spurs win. It’s as simple as that.
(It’s worth noting that Portland’s last game is against the Warriors and San Antonio’s is against the Mavs. The odds are stacked in their favor.)
Where things get tricky is when you try and figure out who the Spurs will face in the first round. It will be either the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, or Phoenix Suns.
It’s most likely that the Spurs will face the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round. I say that because there are more scenarios in which the Spurs and Mavs land in the seventh and second spots, respectively, than any other. If the Mavs or the Nuggets win, or if Utah loses one of its remaining two games, the Mavericks are locked into the two seed.
The Spurs could also run into the Mavericks if they fall into the third seed and San Antonio moves up into the sixth. In order for that to happen, both the Mavericks and the Nuggets would have to lose and Utah would have to win both of its games.
Denver cannot earn the two seed; the highest spot they can fill is the three seed (they are also in danger of falling all the way down into fifth). We are not concerned with Denver if they move down into the fourth or fifth spot. All we care about is if Denver wins or Utah loses to the Warriors and the Suns lose to the Jazz. If either of those scenarios occurs, and the Spurs slide up into the sixth spot, San Antonio will face Denver in the first round.
The Spurs could also face the Utah Jazz in the first round. With two games left to play, the Jazz could land anywhere between the second and fifth positions. Like the Denver, we’re only concerned with how they might meet the Spurs in the first round so lets focus on the second and third seed.
The situation that would push the Mavericks down into the third seed (Mavs and Nuggets Lose, Utah wins twice) is the same scenario that would bump Utah up into the second seed. But even if Utah wins both games, they will only earn the three seed if the Mavericks win and the Denver loses. If the Nuggets win, the Spurs will not face the Jazz in the first round.
Lastly, the Spurs will have a date with our old friends the Phoenix Suns if the Nuggets lose, Phoenix wins its remaining two games, and San Antonio climbs up into the sixth seed. The Suns could also end up in fourth or fifth but, as with Utah and Denver, we don’t care.
Got it? Good.