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NBA West Playoff Picture: Mavericks-Clippers Only Sure Thing

The final few days of the Western Conference playoff race are going to be incredible. Just about every result – at least on Thursday and Friday night – will define something somewhere, and a series of games on Sunday could have major seed-shifting results.

Check out our NBA expert picks throughout this time period for some assistance with your wagering, and read on for the scenarios as of Thursday.

NBA West Playoff Picture: Mavericks-Clippers Only Sure Thing
Bones Hyland #5, P.J. Tucker #17 and Kobe Brown #21 of the LA Clippers | Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

Denver Nuggets (1st place)

It wasn’t Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals, but there was a bit of a do-or-die feel when the Nuggets hosted the Timberwolves on Wednesday. The teams entered tied in the standings, with Minnesota holding a 2-1 series advantage.

Behind the usual suspects, Denver prevailed to take a one-game lead over two teams with two to play. Nikola Jokic, the favorite at the sportsbook for MVP, may have cemented that honor with a 41-point performance, 24 of them coming in the second half.

When the Nuggets are healthy and clicking, it can be a beautiful thing to watch. The fourth quarter against the Timberwolves, when they went 12-for-17 from the floor with nine assists, was one such stretch.

The race isn’t over, however. They lose a three-way tiebreaker with Minnesota and Oklahoma City, so winning out might be necessary.

Remaining schedule: The tricky one comes Friday night at San Antonio. You just know Gregg Popovich would love for his team to treat this one like their own mini version of the playoffs and try to deliver some damage. San Antonio has won five of nine, should have Victor Wembanyama in the lineup, and has been within shouting distance in its three losses to the Nuggets.

If Denver survives that one, it has what should be a cakewalk against Memphis in the finale.

Oklahoma City Thunder (T-2nd, 1 game out)

About a week ago it looked as if these guys might fade to third and stay there. They had lost three straight and their best two players (apologies, Chet) were sidelined with injuries. Against the Spurs on Wednesday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 26 points and Jalen Williams had 10 points, seven rebounds, and three steals in limited minutes as the Thunder put in the backups early in a rout.

All Oklahoma City needs is a slip-up by Denver somewhere (likely at San Antonio). They take the tiebreaker in the event of a three-way tie, but they do lose a head-to-head with Minnesota based on the fourth tiebreaker (conference record).

Remaining schedule: Some of what’s happening in the East is a factor for the Thunder, in sort of a backward way. With Milwaukee’s win over Orlando on Wednesday, the Bucks gained a little separation in their quest for the No. 2 seed. And if the Knicks lose at Boston on Thursday, the Bucks move to the verge of locking that spot up.

What does that mean for the Thunder? Well, the Bucks visit Oklahoma City on Friday and the Thunder would love for that game to mean less for the visitors. Cleveland is still lurking as a potential No. 2 seed, so Milwaukee likely might still have something to gain by playing hard, but without Giannis in the mix and the Cavaliers still a couple of games back, who knows what sort of effort it will give?

After the Bucks game, OKC hosts red-hot Dallas, which may still have a shot at the No. 4 seed (not likely).

Minnesota Timberwolves (T-2nd, 1 game out)

That was a big blow they took in Denver. Superstar Anthony Edwards didn’t sugarcoat it: “We knew what this game was going to determine. If we won it, we knew we were going to possibly be the No. 1 seed, and if we lost it, we knew they’d possibly be the No. 1 seed. I think we cared before but now that we lost we can’t do nothing about it.”

That’s about as simple as one can put it, but not all is lost. If either Milwaukee or Dallas can clip the Thunder and San Antonio does something special against Jokic and Co., Minnesota can sneak in the back door for that No. 1 spot.

The Timberwolves take the tiebreaker with OKC, as mentioned, and also vs Denver, although they would not take a three-way stalemate. Even if it doesn’t work out for Minnesota, the No. 3 seed doesn’t seem like an awful place to be. You avoid Dallas in the first round and wouldn’t get Denver until the Western Conference Finals, if it came to that, although starting the second round at OKC ain’t easy.

Remaining schedule: At the very least, the schedule is in their favor. A home date with Atlanta comes first, followed by a finale against Phoenix that could have some significance for both sides and NBA betting fans.



Los Angeles Clippers (4th, 5 games out)

It’s pretty elementary for the Clippers. Defeat the lowly Jazz on Friday night at home and the No. 4 seed is theirs. If they somehow screw that up, there’s another chance against Houston on Sunday. If they screw that up, they have to hope that Dallas slips up somewhere else.

Regardless, Los Angeles has already begun preparing for a first-round matchup with the Mavericks, which sounds pretty frightening right now.

Remaining schedule: As mentioned, home vs Utah and Houston in the final two regular season games at Crypto.com Arena for this crew. They go into some new digs next season.

Dallas Mavericks (5th, 6 games out)

They own the longest winning streak in the West at five games and you get the sense that if the season was a 100-game slate, Dallas would eventually take over the top spot. They’ve been the best team in the league for a month or so, and it feels very legitimate.

The Mavericks have clinched a first-round matchup with the Clippers, which likely opens in LA.

Remaining schedule: They should take care of business against Detroit on Thursday. The Clippers won’t tip for two hours later, so Dallas will want to keep some heat on them. If by some chance LA loses, the Mavericks will have some motivation to play hard in that finale at Oklahoma City.

Whatever happens, we love Dallas as a top pick on your NBA bet slip for the playoffs.

New Orleans Pelicans (6th, 8½ games out)

This will all change Thursday night based on what happens in the Pelicans’ game at Sacramento. With a win, New Orleans moves to the precipice of the No. 6 seed. With a loss, the situation between the 6-10 spots gets even murkier, especially if Golden State wins at Portland.

The Pelicans’ closest competitor is Phoenix, which enters Thursday a half-game behind. And the Suns won the head-to-head with New Orleans 2-1, so it’s not a far-fetched scenario for these teams to flip. Phoenix will be watching the game in Sacramento very closely.

Remaining schedule: After the visit to the Kings, there’s a quick turnaround before a Friday night trip to Golden State. Then comes a home date with the Lakers, another team in this 6-10 mix. Put it all together and you have a pretty tough road ahead for New Orleans.



Questions of the Day

Are there any NBA picks that look good on Thursday night?

We like the Knicks to roll at Boston. The Celtics have little to play for and have been resting guys here and there. Check out the injury reports before placing your bet online.

What is the situation at the back end of the NBA Play-In picture?

The Warriors defeated the Lakers on Wednesday to take the season series and pull within a half-game of LA for the No. 9 spot (homecourt in a play-in game). If Sacramento loses to New Orleans and Golden State wins at Portland, all three teams would be 45-35.

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