The Oklahoma City Thunder have survived the season to fight one more night. By defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, the Thunder are now in a one game playoff to chase the 8th seed of the Western Conference. For better or worse, the playoff they are in does not actually involve playing the team they are trying to replace in the New Orleans Pelicans. Instead, the Thunder travel to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves, while the Pelicans must deal with the San Antonio Spurs. As Gregg Popovich recently said, "It's not a fair fight." Well, what's fair is foul and foul is fair, and after such a season, the Thunder will take it. OKC gets the moribund Wolves, while the Pelicans have to figure out how to take down the hottest team in the NBA who is also chasing the #2 seed.
The middle of the pack in the West is still confusing. The Spurs, Clippers, and Rockets all still covet the #2 seed and an opportunity to face the Dallas Mavericks. While there are no easy series in the West, being able to avoid the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, or Clippers is still a lofty goal.
There is one game left. The Thunder are in the pole position. Can they capitalize on their opportunity this time, even though so many times during this season they have not?
Update: Here is our final clarity for what will happen after tonight's events (blatantly ripped off from Ziller's daily newsletter)
IF SAN ANTONIO WINS: It is the No. 2 seed and L.A. is the No. 3 seed. Houston could clinch No. 5 with a win or Memphis loss.
IF SAN ANTONIO LOSES: Houston can clinch No. 2 with a win, which would put L.A. in No. 3. Memphis would take No. 5 with a win in that case, sending S.A. to No. 6. If Memphis also lost, S.A. would be No. 5 and the Grizzlies No. 6.
IF SAN ANTONIO AND HOUSTON BOTH LOSE: L.A. is the No. 2 seed. If Memphis wins in this case, it is the No. 3 seed, San Antonio is No. 5 and Houston is No. 6. If Memphis also loses, San Antonio would be No. 3, Houston No. 5 and Memphis No. 6.
Of course, there's also that small matter of the No. 8 seed. The Pelicans clinch it with a win over the Spurs. The Thunder need to beat the Wolves and see the Pels fall to nab it. Both games tip at 8 p.m. ET.
NBA standings and stats via NBA.com/stats