The Thunder's #1 seeding is secure. The playoffs rapidly approach, but amazingly, their 1st round opponent has yet to be determined. Even more astounding, there are still 3 different possible matchup scenarios that will unravel this evening.
Two games will decide everything
Jazz @ Grizzlies, 7:00PM CDT
The Thunder play the Jazz if:
The Jazz have to win their game against the Grizzlies AND the Rockets have to win against the Lakers.
The Jazz face a difficult uphill battle tonight, and much of it is out of their control. First they have to win a game against a tough Grizzlies team that can deal with the Jazz's greatest strength - their inside game. Furthermore, the Grizz are not likely to roll over tonight because their own playoff situation is at stake as well. They must win tonight and then wait a few hours to see if the Clippers lose. If this scenario plays out - the Grizz win and the Clippers lose - Memphis will have home court advantage in the 1st round as the #4 seed and would face the Clippers, and the Jazz would jump the Lakers into the 8th seed.
The Thunder won the regular season series against the Jazz, 3-1.
The Thunder play the Rockets if:
The Rockets have a lot riding on tonight's sequence of events, a sequence that could place them in either the #6, #7, or #8 spot. If both the Jazz and Lakers win tonight, the Rockets slide all the way down to the end of the chain and face the Thunder in the 1st round.
If the Rockets lose to the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers AND the Grizz knock off the Jazz, Utah will finish out of the playoffs, and the Lakers will jump the Rockets for the #7 seed, leaving the Rockets to face the Thunder.
The Rockets have a small chance to actually jump into the #6 spot if they beat the Lakers AND Golden state loses to Portland, so Houston will be playing hard tonight. Furthermore, the Rockets probably stand a better chance at beating the injury-plagued Spurs at this point, rather than the Thunder or the Nuggets.
This seeding would act as the return of James Harden to OKC, a wonderful opening round playoff scenario if there ever was one.
The Thunder won the regular season series against the Rockets, 2-1.
The Thunder play the Lakers if:
In order for the Lakers to remain in the 8th spot, Houston must win tonight AND the Jazz must lose. While the Lakers face a monumental uphill battle, their best case scenario is to stay out of the #8 spot, where the supercharged Thunder offense would likely run roughshod over them. However, the Spurs have proven that they are no longer a stalwart interior defensive team, and just like we saw two years ago in Memphis, they may be susceptible to a team that wants to bang down low.
The Lakers, without Kobe, would have a very difficult time generating enough offense to keep pace with OKC.
The Thunder won the regular season series against the Lakers, 3-1.
The Thunder favorably match up against all of these teams. Both the Jazz and Lakers' strengths are neutralized by the Thunder's defense, and neither one can contend with the offensive firepower that OKC has on the perimeter. The Rockets can keep up offensively, but they're a defensively poor team and the Thunder have proven that they can play elite-level defense for stretches at a time.
In 12 hours, we'll know the outcome. Until then, who should we hope to face?