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Playoff Push Pole Position

By Jeff Koch on February 26, 2013.

The rodeo road trip is over, and thus begins the final leg of the season, pushing towards the playoffs.

With an impressive run of basketball, the Spurs have put themselves in prime position to get the #1 seed in the West, not to mention the overall #1 seed. As I’m sure most everybody has heard by now, the Spurs have 24 games left, with 17 at home. At home where they’ve only lost 2 games all year. (And 7 road games left, where they’ve been pretty darn good, as well.) If the Spurs maintain the pace, they will easily secure the top seed. Even with slight regression, they should still obtain it. The only real threat at this point is the Oklahoma City Thunder, who sit 2 games back in the loss column, and who we face 2 more times. But with our favorable schedule, even those games can be offset.

The real interesting question heading into the playoffs from my perspective is seeding and match-ups. The first question: is the #1 seed even desirable? The case against the #1 seed: if the Lakers squeak into the playoffs as the #8 seed, no team will want any part of them. As fun as it has been to watch the drama unfold all season and take part in the schadenfreude, there is still a boatload of talent and playoff experience on that team, and that would be a terribly difficult first round match-up. Even worse than Memphis from two years ago. Speaking of, as the #1 seed, the second round could very well be against those Grizzlies, who are pretty firmly entrenched in the 4 or 5 slot right now. While the Spurs have handled Memphis pretty well since those infamous playoffs, the Grizzlies still represent much of what can derail a potential playoff run.

If we fell to the #2 seed, that could mean possibly avoiding LA in round 1, and getting the Clippers in Round 2, a team that has beaten us pretty badly this year, but who we still kind of own, and, let’s be honest, a team we don’t really fear in the playoffs. This would also mean a potential OKC-Lakers first round, with the Grizzlies facing OKC in the second round, a team they feel they can beat.

Of course, the case for the #1 seed is always stronger. Despite how tough it would be, I like our chances against Memphis in the second round. I also like the prospect of a Clippers-Thunder series; I think LA can really give them a tough series. And the strongest point for the #1 seed: home court advantage against OKC if it comes to it. Every possible edge counts, and I think OKC is vulnerable this year if we have home court. They haven’t lost a beat playing without James Harden, but I think they will miss him dearly in the playoffs, and I think that loss can make all the difference in a series. OKC beat us in those 4 games in the 4th quarter, and they beat us because Durant is spectacular, and because Harden was the primary ball-handler and decision maker. Put Westbrook in that role (and just take away the all-around threat of Harden), and that team is much less scary in crunch time of a playoff game. Westbrook is an athletic freak, but he doesn’t inspire fear like the other two do, and I expect him to make boneheaded plays in equal measure to spectacular ones.

But I still want home court advantage. And the #1 seed.

The last two months of the season are always so much fun to watch in the standings. The biggest things to watch, outside of our push for the top seed: can the Clippers hold on to the #3 seed, holding Memphis at bay?; can the Lakers fight back into the playoffs?; and can Houston and Utah hold them off? I’ve already found myself watching every Lakers, Jazz, and Rockets score.

It’s going to be a fun few months.

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