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Finally, a Relaxing Fourth Quarter

By Jeff Koch on April 14, 2009.

Not a lot to say about this game. They played us tight for a quarter and a half, but we had a big run to finish the first half, and quickly pushed a 19 point lead to well over 30 in the 3rd quarter. I didn’t realize just how depleted the Warriors were until the game started. Playing against only 7 players, most of whom are neophytes in the league, should lead to a blowout. Still, with all the close calls we’ve had this season against teams we should’ve beaten easily, it was nice to sit back, watch some ‘garbage time’, and cruise to a victory. No illegal miracle 3s tonight. Personally, I really enjoy watching the Spurs during garbage time. The team still competes hard and executes the game plan offensively and defensively. While the talent level may drop off, the effort does not. And it’s good to get meaningful minutes for the Obertos and Vaughns of the world, because you never know when they might have to step in to a playoff game and give us a few solid minutes.

There are a lot of positives to take away from this game. Parker was his usual brilliant self, orchestrating the offense effortlessly. Duncan looked good. He was active and aggressive, and those are two great indicators that he’s ready to go for the playoffs. Gooden had a monstrous game for us off the bench. We outrebounded them handily. We started the 3rd quarter strong, refusing to let them back in the game (something that we’re not always great at). We held them to 24, 14, 13, and 21 points. That’s good D, especially against the 2nd highest scoring team in the NBA.

Unfortunately, Houston, Portland, and Denver all won tonight as well. With the win, Denver clinches the Northwest. But things get complicated after that. Denver own the tiebreaker against us, but not against Houston. If Houston wins and we win, we’ll have identical records, but Houston will get the tiebreaker because they have a better record against Western conference playoff teams. So Houston would win the Southwest. If Denver loses and Houston wins, then Houston would climb to the 2 seed by virtue of having the tiebreak over Denver. If we win and Houston loses, we win the Southwest, but can do no better than the 3 seed, as we can’t pass Denver.

Things get even more complicated when you throw Portland into the mix. Portland can’t pass Denver either. But if they win Wednesday and both us and the Rockets lose, then they would jump to the 3 seed, Houston would win the Southwest and be the 4 seed (as they still would hold the tiebreaker against us), and we’d be the 5th seed, opening the playoffs in Houston. If Houston, Portland, and the Spurs all win, then Houston gets the 2 seed, Denver gets the 3 seed (because they would’ve just lost to Portland), Portland gets the 4 seed, and we get the 5 seed, opening the playoffs in Portland, because Portland holds the tiebreaker against us.

There are 2 scenarios in which we can get the 3 seed. One, if we win and both Portland and Houston lose. Then Houston gets the 4 seed, and Portland gets the 5 seed. However, if Houston loses but Portland wins, we’d still get the 3 seed by virtue of winning the division. Even though Portland would have the season head-to-head advantage on us, we win the tiebreak by being a division winner. That’s something new that the league added this year. So we’d get the 3 seed for winning the division, Portland would get the 4 seed, and Houston would get the 5 seed.

So the games to pay attention to on Wednesday are Houston at Dallas, New Orleans at San Antonio, and Denver at Portland, the very last game of the NBA season, and quite possibly the game that determines all of the seedings for the Western Conference.

It can all be quite convoluted and confusing. Obviously, the most important thing is to just win the game. Of the 4 teams discussed, we’re the only ones who really don’t have any say in where we get seeded. If Houston wins, they get the division. If Denver wins, they get the division. If the Blazers win, they ensure they can be no lower that 4th and secure home court in the first round. But even if we beat the Hornets on Wednesday, our final seed is more dictated by the outcome of the Rockets and Blazers games; we could still be anywhere from the 3 to 5 seed. So my advice: don’t worry too much about it. Leave that to me, and my poor numbers-obsessed, seedings-addled brain.

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