The four-team battle for No. 1 out West. Plus, about the Wizards benching Jordan

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In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “We landed on the moon!” Again!

Wild, Wild West

How will it shake out?

There’s a pretty epic battle going on for the top four spots in the Western Conference standings. The Thunder are a game and a half ahead of the 36-18 Clippers (after thumping LA, 129-107, last night) and 37-19 Nuggets (who beat Washington 130-110). With these teams aiming for home-court advantage, let’s break down the race for No. 1:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16)

  • Season series: OKC (2-2), LAC (2-0), DEN (1-0)
  • Remaining strength of schedule: 20th
  • Remaining top-eight opponents: Kings, Clippers (2x), Nuggets (3x), Suns (2x)
  • Strengths: Top-ranked defense in the league; Anthony Edwards is a monster.
  • Weakness: Rank 26th in turnovers per game.

Basketball-Reference gives the Wolves a 64.7 percent likelihood to grab the top seed. As long as they go at least 4-2 in their remaining Northwest Division games, they’ll win the tiebreaker over OKC.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-17)

  • Season series: MIN (2-2), LAC (2-1), DEN (3-1)
  • Remaining strength of schedule: 24th
  • Remaining top-eight opponents: Suns (2x), Mavs (2x), Pelicans, Kings
  • Strengths: Top four in both offensive and defensive rating.
  • Weakness: Currently ranks 29th in rebounding percentage.

The Thunder holds the tiebreaker over the Clippers and Nuggets. They’ll need some help from Denver to get the tiebreaker over Minnesota. Basketball-Reference gives OKC a 24.7 percent chance at the No. 1 seed.

3. LA Clippers (36-18)

  • Season series: MIN (0-2), OKC (1-2), DEN (1-2)
  • Remaining strength of schedule: 11th
  • Remaining top-eight opponents: Kings (2x), Wolves (2x), Pelicans, Nuggets, Suns (2x)
  • Strengths: Their offense is out of this world (third), and this team has been rolling for months (33-11 record since Nov. 17 is NBA’s second-best).
  • Weaknesses: They’re a bottom 10 defensive rebounding team, part of the reason their defense is outside the top 10.

Basketball-Reference gives the Clippers just a 7.3 percent finish atop the West, probably because they don’t have any tiebreakers over these other three teams.

4. Denver Nuggets (37-19)

  • Season series: MIN (0-1), OKC (1-3), LAC (2-1)
  • Remaining strength of schedule: 18th
  • Remaining top-eight opponents: Kings, Suns (2x), Mavs, Wolves (3x), Clippers
  • Strengths: The Nuggets are the reigning champions and are healthy.
  • Weakness: They are a bad free-throw shooting team and lose the charity-stripe battle often.

Denver has just a 1.3 percent chance at the top seed, but I’m guessing the Nuggets are comfortable with where they are.

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Read More: The four-team battle for No. 1 out West. Plus, about the Wizards benching Jordan 2024-02-23 22:37:07

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