The Western Conference play-off race has been wild.
The Western Conference play-off race has been wild.

Crazy NBA Playoffs race explained

YOU know it's an exciting regular season when there's just three days left, and we still have no idea who'll be moving on to play post-season basketball.

While the eight Eastern Conference play-off teams are set and simply fighting for seedings, the bottom half of the Western Conference's top-eight is still up in the air.

Entering Tuesday's (AEST) games, there are five teams fighting for the remaining four spots, and the finish to the regular season could be as confusing as it is enthralling. Just one game separates the team sitting in fifth, and the ninth seed, with head-to-heads and division placings also likely to come into play when the regular season is all said and done.

Here's a look at what the remainder of the season holds for the five Western Conference teams still vying for those four playoff spots, and how they can secure a place in the postseason.

STANDINGS, ENTERING TUESDAY (AEST)

* = clinched playoff berth.

1. *Houston Rockets (64-16)

2. *Golden State Warriors (58-23)

3. *Portland Trail Blazers (48-32)

4. *Utah Jazz (47-33)

5. New Orleans Pelicans (46-34)

6. San Antonio Spurs (46-34)

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34)

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (45-35)

9. Denver Nuggets (45-35)

5. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (46-34)

 

Schedule: @ Los Angeles Clippers

vs. San Antonio Spurs

Tiebreakers owned: Pelicans lead season series with San Antonio Spurs 2-1, with one game still to be played.

Scenario: New Orleans might be in the most precarious situation out of the teams sitting on a 46-34 record.

With two tough opponents in line,  if the Pelicans were to lose against the Clippers and Spurs, and the Timberwolves and Nuggets win at least one of their remaining games - since both teams hold the tiebreaker over New Orleans - they'd fall out of the top eight. However, their win over the Golden State Warriors was as big as it gets, so the Pelicans just need to defeat the Clippers in order to earn a playoff berth. If they fall to Doc Rivers' team, then the game against the Spurs is do or die.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and forward Carmelo Anthony.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and forward Carmelo Anthony.

 

6. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (46-34)

 

Schedule: vs. Sacramento Kings

@ New Orleans Pelicans

Tiebreakers owned: Spurs won season series 2-1 over Minnesota Timberwolves.

Scenario: One win from their remaining two games would guarantee play-off basketball for Gregg Popovich's men. You'd have to think that comes against the Sacramento Kings, on Tuesday (AEST).

 

7. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (46-34)

Schedule: @ Miami Heat 

vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Scenario: One win would guarantee playoff basketball for the Thunder, but if they were to somehow drop both games, and Minnesota and Denver secured at least one win each; Russell Westbrook and co. would miss out on the postseason.

8. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (45-35)

Schedule: vs. Memphis Grizzlies

vs Denver Nuggets

Tiebreakers owned: 

Timberwolves won season series against New Orleans Pelicans 4-0. Timberwolves won season series against Oklahoma City Thunder 3-1. Timberwolves lead season series against Denver Nuggets 2-1, with one game to play.

Scenario: The equation is simple. Beat the Denver Nuggets and they're in. Win two games, and Minnesota - who hold the tiebreaker against Oklahoma City and New Orleans - put themselves in a position to potentially climb the standings if those above them drop any of their remaining games.

 

9. DENVER NUGGETS (45-35)

Schedule: vs. Portland Trail Blazers

@ Minnesota Timberwolves

Tiebreakers owned: Nuggets won season series against New Orleans Pelicans 2-1. Nuggets won season series against Oklahoma City Thunder 3-1.

Scenario:  The path won't be easy, but Denver's future is in their own hands. Win against the No.3 seed Trail Blazers, as well as the Timberwolves, and they will secure play-off basketball.

 

Olgun Uluc covers basketball for Fox Sports Australia. 

Gadiel Notelovitz covers American sports for Fox Sports Australia.



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