The race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference just got interesting. Again. The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a tailspin, losing six of their last seven games, while the New Orleans Pelicans — nearly left for dead a week ago after a similar stretch of futility — are suddenly on a bit of a roll, winning five of six. After eking out a 103-100 win over the coasting Golden State Warriors (Anthony Davis said in a post game interview the Dubs treated it like a scrimmage), the 42-35 Pels are now in sole possession of eighth place in the conference.
Meanwhile, the Thunder got blown out by the San Antonio Spurs (again), and, at 42-35, now sit one game behind the Pels in the loss column. Not only that, thanks to a 3-1 season series advantage, the Pels are actually two games ahead in the loss column, meaning if both teams end the season with the same record, the Pels get the playoff nod.
Some quick math shows the Thunder need to win their remaining four games to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, while the Pels can afford to drop one of their last five games. If the Thunder lose one game, the Pels can go 3-2 and be safe. The good news for the Thunder is that three of their final four games are against non-playoff teams, and their only tough game is against Portland, who may just be checked out by that point and waiting for the playoffs.
The Pels have the tougher road, as they face a murderer’s row of Southwest Division foes: Memphis, Houston and San Antonio. Memphis and Houston are battling for the second seed in the conference, but the Spurs game is the final game of the season, and there’s a good chance nobody of consequence will be playing. Add in two games against non-playoff teams — Phoenix, Minnesota — and the Pels can cross their fingers for one OKC loss to make life easier for themselves.
Regardless of schedule strength, the Pels control their own destiny, and can put the Thunder away by taking care of business any four nights over the next week. The Thunder do not have the same luxury, even if Dion Waiters seems to think they do:
Dion Waiters on the playoff race: “We control our own destiny, they control their own destiny.” Um…
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 8, 2015
I do not think that means what you think it means, Dion.
[Twitter, photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images]