Grizzles, Blazers, Spurs, Suns Vying For Play-In Spots

As a result of this past weekend’s games, we’re now assured of having our first-ever “play-in tournament” in the Western Conference, since there’s no way that the Grizzlies – or any other team that can finish at No. 8 – will finish more than four games ahead of the West’s No. 9 seed.

That won’t be the case in the East, where the Nets are locked into No. 7 and the Magic into No. 8, with the Wizards too far out of contention to force a play-in. But two teams out of the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Suns are set to participate in a play-in tournament in the West. The Kings and Pelicans have officially been eliminated from play-in contention.

That play-in tournament will essentially be a best-of-three series, with the No. 8 team being staked to a 1-0 advantage in the “series.” In other words, the No. 9 seed will need to win twice to earn the conference’s final playoff spot, while the No. 8 seed will only need to win once in two tries to make it through.

Here are the current standings in the West:

Seed Team
Games back Games left
8 Grizzlies 33-38 BOS, MIL
9 Blazers 33-39 0.5 DAL, BKN
10 Spurs 31-38 1 HOU, UTA
11 Suns 31-39 1.5 OKC, PHI, DAL

The Grizzlies are the only team that fully controls its own destiny when it comes to claiming the No. 8 seed. Wins over Boston and Milwaukee would ensure that Memphis holds that spot, and a win in either one of those games would guarantee that the Grizzlies at least participate in the play-in tournament.

Those games – against two of the East’s top three teams – won’t be easy though, and if the Grizzlies lose both of them, the race will be wide open, with any of the three teams chasing them technically still in play for the No. 8 seed.

The Blazers, with the softest remaining schedule, still look like a good bet to participate in a play-in tournament, but they’ll need to finish strong — losing one of their two games would leave them vulnerable to being passed in the standings by the Spurs and Suns if those teams win out. If Phoenix and San Antonio both win out, the Suns would finish slightly ahead of the Spurs.

All four teams still alive for the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds play their final seeding games on Thursday, so we’ll know by the end of that day which teams will take part in the play-in. The most important game to watch on today’s schedule is Suns vs. Thunder. Phoenix won’t be eliminated from play-in contention with a loss, but it would make their path a whole lot more difficult.

What do you think? Which two teams do you expect to participate in the play-in tournament, and which club still do you expect to ultimately claim the No. 8 spot in the West?

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21 thoughts on “Grizzles, Blazers, Spurs, Suns Vying For Play-In Spots

  1. hiflew

    I guess they will have to amend the old saying “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” to include the NBA playoffs. Cause you don’t have to be better to get in, you just have to be close.

    • Luke Adams

      If you’re a No. 8 seed that finishes a game or two ahead of the No. 9 seed and then loses two straight games against them in a play-in tournament, not sure there’s a compelling case that you’re the “better” team.

      • Curtisrowe

        There is a 100 percent compelling case that you were better during the regular season though. Which is what getting into the playoffs is about.

        • Luke Adams

          But if you count the play-in games, a No. 9 team that wins the play-in tournament will likely end up with the better record, in a season that will still fall short of 82 games.

          Agree to disagree, I guess, but to me that’s not a “compelling” case for the No. 8 team even being the better regular season team, given all the caveats about what qualifies as “regular season” this year.

  2. acarneglia

    You got a young upstart Grizzlies team with a lot to prove, a Spurs team who has a wealth of experience, one of the leagues best starting 5’s in Portland, and a Suns team with a bonafide star playing with found money. Buckle up

    • wagner13

      Meh. We’ve seen these teams make the postseason for years. I’d rather see some young blood from Memphis or Phoenix make the playoffs. Booker and Morant would be fun to watch IMO

  3. bens04ter

    question what if all three teams finish within 4 games of eighth? is the tie breaker to see who is 9 go by head to head? what if thats tied?

    • Luke Adams

      Only the 8th and 9th teams will participate in the play-in tournament, even if they all end up separated by just a game or two.

      Of these four teams, only the Grizzlies and Suns could end up with the same record, since they’ll each finish with 73 games (the Blazers will play 74 and the Spurs will only play 71). If they do end up tied, head-to-head results would be the first tiebreaker, which Memphis would win (3-1 vs. Phoenix this season).

  4. mcmillankmm

    Since Memphis is currently sitting in 8th they would really need a collapse to miss the play-in game, and since the Suns have 3 games left, and the Spurs have a tough schedule (Houston then Utah), I would think Portland makes it as well…especially if Dallas doesn’t have anything left to play for on Tuesday night

  5. Dorothy_Mantooth

    Given that teams will not have played the same number of games, staking the 8th seed to a 1-0 lead in a playoff seems unfair to me. If Portland and Memphis end up with the same number of wins, Portland gets penalized for playing (and losing) one more game than Memphis. This should be a straight up best of 3 series, if not just a 1 game winner takes all series.

  6. KnickerbockerAl

    Grizz look like they are slipping. Without their big. They are in trouble. Suns looking good. But have tough gms. Can they really keep this up. They have to beat Thunder. That’s the big gm to me. Thunder don’t want to drop to 6th. Spurs are vets, but they probably lose a gm for sure (Jazz, Rockets). Grizz would have to lose their remaining gms. Which could happen. Blazers seems safest bet. Going down to last gm.

  7. x%sure

    Eyeroll. It’s a playoff race, with some funny rules thrown in at the bottom.

  8. El Don

    Really hope PHO makes it to the playoffs, with D-Book & Ayton would be a great series to watch against the LAL, very fun indeed!

  9. The Lakers would be in for a tough matchup if Portland ends up winning the 8 seed……

  10. KnickerbockerAl

    Woo goo ….. yeah trade Booker.
    Who in their right mind trades Booker. He is pulling an MJ lols. Suns are going for it. Grizz next gm is Celtics. Suns and Sixers. This is right here. No Simmons !!
    Looking like a Phoenix resurrection……
    I hope all the Booker trade posters are watching. I guess all of you would have traded MJ n Kobe after 4 yrs. OMG look what they said about him draft night.
    link to

  11. KnickerbockerAl

    It’s Dame Time …. Come on now 61 pts.
    He’s gotta be Bubble MVP …. right. He and Booker are killing it. Blazers win, Suns keep winning, Spurs win. Grizz lose , Its down to 1 gm. Go Blazers go Suns. Lillard and Booker have been Fun to watch.

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