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Monday Musings: Where We Stand

The Wild Western Conference battles continue through the end of the season

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The last few days have started to make a little sense of what is going to happen with the Western Conference playoff race. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, things are relatively simple, as they just need to win their final two games to ensure that they make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The general rule of thumb for all the teams on the margin is that you need 47 wins in order to get in.

As it stands:

  1. Rockets: 64-16
  2. Warriors: 58-32
  3. Trailblazers: 48-32
  4. Jazz: 47-33
  5. Pelicans: 46-34
  6. Spurs: 46-34
  7. Thunder: 46-34
  8. Wolves: 45-35
  9. Nuggets: 45-35

As a result, the Blazers, Jazz, Rockets, and Warriors have all clinched a playoff spot. This leaves the Pelicans, Spurs, Thunder, Wolves, and Nuggets fighting for the last four spots. All teams are within one game of each other, so it is hard to determine exactly how things will end up.

The Wolves could still vault their way up to the 4th seed, as they hold tiebreakers over the Thunder, Pelicans, Jazz, and (currently) the Nuggets, but they could just as easily fall out of the playoffs entirely. Those tiebreakers over the Pelicans and Thunder could become essential, as that is likely the only way the Wolves are vaulting themselves out of the 7-8 seed range and the shellacking that would come with that.

Tonight will be incredibly important for the playoff seeding. While the Wolves play the Memphis Grizzlies, who are tanking away in the final stretch of the season, the Nuggets will play the Trailblazers, the Spurs play the Kings, the Thunder play the Heat, and the Pelicans play the Clippers. The playoff picture could look completely different by tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, now that the Clippers have little to play for this season after being knocked out of playoff contention, the Pelicans have a much better chance to pick up an easy win.

The huge game of the evening is the Blazers vs Nuggets. Importantly, the Blazers now need to win this game, as the Jazz are hot on their heels for the third seed. The Blazers also have a huge Wednesday game on the docket, as the close out the season against the Jazz which could be a battle for the third seed. For the Nuggets, they need to continue to win out in order to keep their hopes alive. If the Nuggets lose tonight and the Wolves win against the Grizzlies, that will knock the Nuggets out of the playoffs and the Wolves would clinch a spot.

It’s going to be a wild finish. If the Wolves and Nuggets both win tonight, or if the Wolves lose somehow against the Grizzlies, then Wednesday’s game will easily be the most important game for the Wolves in over a decade.

But first things first. The Wolves need to take care of business tonight and see how the rest of the games shake out