The NBA Orlando Bubble has been a roaring success. The original intent was to give teams on the cusp of the playoffs a chance to break into the postseason. Now, with just one game left per team, four teams are fighting for one spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Playoff Scenarios for the Final Spot in the Western Conference Playoffs
Western Conference Playoff Play-In Series
As things currently stand, it appears the newly instated “play-in” series will go into effect to determine the final playoff team. According to the temporary rule, if the team in ninth place finishes within four games of eighth place, the two teams will play up to two games to determine which team goes.
In this series, it’s double-elimination for the higher seed and single-elimination for the lower seed. The winner of that series then goes on to face the Los Angeles Lakers. What a prize!
Since this series is statistically impossible to avoid, there are two open slots for teams to make the postseason and four suitors. The Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, and San Antonio Spurs will duke it out on Thursday, August 13th to see who makes the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers Scenarios (34-39, 0.466)
After a historic win over the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night behind Damian Lillard’s 61-point explosion, the Trail Blazers have the easiest path to the postseason. They currently hold the eight-seed and sit a half-game ahead of the field.
IT. IS. DAME. TIME. ⌚️
61 PTS for Damian Lillard. pic.twitter.com/5kMoBoXnoa
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) August 12, 2020
To clinch eighth-place in the West, all the Blazers have to do is beat the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. If they lose that game, they still have a shot at eighth place and can clinch with losses by Memphis, San Antonio, and Phoenix.
If both of those scenarios fall through, they can still clinch a spot in the play-in series so long as at least two of the three teams below them lose a game. It doesn’t matter which two, as long as there are two combined losses.
The only way Portland misses the postseason is with a loss and two combined wins between Phoenix, Memphis, and San Antonio.
Memphis Grizzlies Scenarios (33-39, 0.458)
Despite a horrific 1-6 record thus far in the Orlando Bubble, the Grizzlies still have the second-easiest path to the postseason. They clinch one of the two spots with a win. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
However, it does get a bit more complicated when looking at which spot they might get. If the Grizzlies win and the Trail Blazers lose, Memphis clinches the eight-seed. Additionally, if they win and both Phoenix and San Antonio lose (but Portland wins), they clinch the nine-seed.
Phoenix Suns Scenarios (33-39, 0.458)
Poor Phoenix. The Suns are easily the hottest team in the NBA Bubble with a perfect 7-0 record thus far. And despite all their efforts, making the postseason comes down to factors virtually out of their control.
The Suns are the first team on the list that can miss the postseason even with a win. Not only do the Suns have to win, but they have to hope for a loss from either Memphis or Portland.
If the Suns win and one of those two teams lose, Phoenix will clinch ninth place. Additionally, if Phoenix wins and both teams lose, the Suns will move into eighth place. If the Suns lose to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, though, it’s all over for potential Bubble MVP Devin Booker and his Phoenix squad, despite their best efforts.
San Antonio Spurs Scenarios (32-38, 0.457)
The San Antonio Spurs are still holding on to their last thread of hope. They currently hold the longest active playoff streak in the NBA, as they haven’t missed the postseason in 22 years. The streak started in 1998 and may come to an end in 2020.
However, they still have a chance. If the Spurs defeat the Utah Jazz Thursday night, they need a ton of help to clinch the eight-seed. A win combined with losses from all three of the other contenders will land San Antonio in eighth place. If that doesn’t happen, though, they still have one more ace in the hole.
If the Spurs win, they only need two combined losses from Memphis, Portland, and Phoenix to limp into the postseason as the nine-seed. But if just two of those teams win, it’s game over for San Antonio.
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