NBA Playoff race: The Western Conference No. 8 seed
While the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder are not facing off against each other on the court tonight, they are locked in a highly contested battle for the eighth seed in the Western Conference and an NBA Playoff birth is on the line. It all comes down to what happens tonight, when the Thunder face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Pelicans face the San Antonio Spurs.
The Thunder clearly have an advantage because the Timberwolves have nothing to play for, and the Pelicans are facing a Spurs team that needs a win in order to be the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Normally, the Spurs would not be playing their starters, but tonight is a different story and I expect the Spurs to play top-notch basketball, which means bad news for the Pelicans. If the Pelicans can pull off a victory, they would face the Golden State Warriors in the first round. A loss would mean that a Oklahoma City win would have the Thunder traveling to face the Warriors in the first round.
Another cause for concern for the Pelicans, besides the Spurs, is that Minnesota is playing with a severely depleted lineup tonight. The majority of the Timberwolves starters are out or doubtful for the matchup against the Thunder tonight, and that doesn’t bode well for the Pelicans, who only need a win against the Spurs to make it into the playoffs.
My guess is that the Oklahoma City Thunder will pull away late against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight, and that Russell Westbrook will do everything that he can to grab another triple-double and lead the Thunder to a resounding victory. The Pelicans will most likely struggle against a hard-nosed Spurs team that knows how to win in crunch time, although they do own a 2-1 record in the season series over the Spurs. The Spurs are looking to win their 12th straight game tonight and grab the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and they should in a close game.
NBA fans should be rejoicing because the final spot in the NBA Playoffs is still up for grabs on the final day of the regular season. Sorry, New Orleans fans, the Thunder have the advantage tonight and will snag the No. 8 seed from the Pelicans cold, dead hands.
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Dustin Brown covers the Oklahoma City Thunder and NBA for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @SprtsWritingMan.