The Oklahoma City Thunder went into the season as the Western Conference favorites. Then as the season progressed, they still managed to hold the top seed. However, as the season comes to a close, the Thunder are beginning to gain some competition for that No. 1 spot.
The Spurs grabbed the top spot for a short while, before having it stolen right back. However, with the season winding down, the Spurs need to grab the spot back and enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
An important factor in the playoffs is home court advantage. With San Antonio expected to enter the playoffs as a top-two seed, the only possibility to lose this advantage, would be in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder.
However, if they do manage to edge out the Thunder as the top seed, the Spurs' chances of winning the matchup increases dramatically.
The Spurs are an incredible home team. When playing in the AT&T Center, with the crowd chanting their name, the Spurs play their best. On their home turf, they have only lost five game. This gives them the second-best record in the league when playing at home, but the Thunder are very close behind.
In the chance that the two teams do meet up, it is very likely that the series goes into a Game 7. At this point, it is absolutely crucial that the Spurs hold the better record and get to play the final game at home.
Holding the top seed entering the playoffs would also give the Spurs the much-needed respect from the rest of the league. Despite being a top team, they are almost always left out of contender discussion, a fact that continues to amaze me every single year.
If the Thunder do not finish with the West's best record, maybe the Spurs will start to get noticed as a possible championship team.
Most importantly, earning the top seed would help the Spurs stay clear of the Los Angeles Lakers, assuming they finish with the No. 3 seed. The team has proved to be a lot for the Spurs to handle, with Bynum playing at such a high level. The two seven-footers are a major challenge for San Antonio, as their starting center stands at a mere 6'7''.
If this were to happen, the Thunder would be stuck in the same bracket as the Spurs, hopefully eliminating them from the postseason run. As the Spurs' most challenging opponent, to see them sent home would be a major upside for the team's title chances.
Overall, the Spurs need to step up and play at an extremely high level with the hopes of earning the top seed, as in the end, that could make all of the difference.