Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Thursday, April 3

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Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Thursday, April 3
Sue Ogrocki

For what seemed like a silent slate, Thursday's NBA action—all two games of it—sure packed the potent punch.

In front of a frenzied sellout crowd, the Oklahoma City Thunder ended the San Antonio Spurs' 19-game winning streak, 106-94 behind Kevin Durant's 28 points—the 39th consecutive time KD has crested the 25-point mark.

Outwardly lopsided score aside, if this is any kind of preview of what we can expect in the Western Conference Finals, sign us up right now. The plane tickets, the center-court seats, the beers that come in a giant plastic boot (I'm assuming all arenas have these now), everything.

In the TNT nightcap, the Dallas Mavericks—emboldened by Dirk Nowitzki's 26 points and 11 rebounds—outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers 113-107, keeping their seat in what is fast becoming a furious game of musical chairs for the Western Conference's final two playoff spots.

Let's take a gander at where we're at. 

Eastern Conference Standings
Team Win-Loss Winning Percentage Games Back Conference Record
Miami 52-22 .703 - 32-14
Indiana 53-23 .697 - 36-11
Toronto 43-32 .573 9.5 27-18
Chicago 43-32 .573 9.5 31-15
Brooklyn 40-34 .541 12.0 22-22
Washington 39-36 .520 13.5 28-17
Charlotte 37-38 .493 15.5 24-21
New York 33-43 .434 20 22-24
Atlanta 32-42 .432 20 22-22
Cleveland 31-45 .408 22 19-27
Detroit 27-48 .360 25.5 21-25
Boston 23-52 .307 29.5 19-26
Orlando 21-54 .280 31.5 16-30
Philadelphia 16-59 .213 36.5 11-35
Milwaukee 14-61 .187 38.5 11-34

NBA.com

 

Clinched: Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards

 

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds):

Charlotte Bobcats: 100 percent*

Atlanta Hawks: 63.6 percent  

New York Knicks: 28.3 percent

Cleveland Cavaliers: 8.1 percent

*Have yet to clinch; would take a disaster to fall out of the top eight seeds

 

Eliminated from Contention: Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks.

 

If Playoffs Started Today

Miami vs. New York (Miami leads season series, 2-1)

Indiana vs. Charlotte (Indiana won season series, 2-1)

Toronto vs. Washington (Toronto won season series, 3-1)

Chicago vs. Brooklyn (Chicago won season series, 2-1)

Sue Ogrocki

Western Conference Standings
Team Win-Loss Winning Percentage Games Back Conference Record
San Antonio 59-17 .776 - 35-11
Oklahoma City 55-19 .743 3 33-13
L.A. Clippers 54-23 .701 5.5 33-14
Houston 49-25 .662 9 26-18
Portland 49-27 .645 10 26-20
Golden State 46-29 .613 12.5 26-19
Dallas 45-31 .592 14 25-21
Memphis 44-31 .587 14.5 25-22
Phoenix 44-31 .587 14.5 24-21
Minnesota 37-37 .500 21 21-26
Denver 33-42 .440 25.5 17-28
New Orleans 32-43 .427 26.5 13-32
Sacramento 27-48 .360 31.5 14-31
L.A. Lakers 25-50 .333 33.5 13-32
Utah 23-52 .307 35.5 11-34

NBA.com

 

Clinched: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers

 

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds):

Houston Rockets: 100 percent*

Portland Trail Blazers: 100 percent*

Golden State Warriors: 100 percent*

Memphis Grizzlies: 85.4 percent

Dallas Mavericks: 69.2 percent

Phoenix Suns: 45.4 percent

*Have yet to clinch; would take a disaster to fall out of the top eight seeds

 

Eliminated from Contention: Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, L.A. Lakers, Utah Jazz

 

If Playoffs Started Today

San Antonio vs. Memphis (San Antonio leads season series, 3-0)

Oklahoma City vs. Dallas (Dallas won season series, 2-1)

L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State (season series tied, 2-2)

Houston vs. Portland (Houston won season series, 3-1)

Friday's NBA Slate
Home Away Time
Memphis Denver 7:00 p.m. ET
Charlotte Orlando 7:00 p.m. ET
Toronto Indiana 7:00 p.m. ET
Atlanta Cleveland 7:30 p.m. ET
Boston Philadelphia 7:30 p.m. ET
Brooklyn Detroit 7:30 p.m. ET
Miami Minnesota 7:30 p.m. ET
New York Washington 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Milwaukee 8:00 p.m. ET
Utah New Orleans 9:00 p.m. ET
Houston Oklahoma City 9:30 p.m. ET
Portland Phoenix 10:00 p.m. ET
Golden State Sacramento 10:30 p.m. ET
L.A. Lakers Dallas 10:30 p.m. ET

NBA.com


Unanswered Questions 

1. Would the Spurs or Thunder Be Favored in the WCF?

For as transcendent a season as the Spurs have had, they're now 0-4 against the Thunder—the only team in either conference San Antonio failed to best at least once.

At the same time, barring the improbable, Tim Duncan and company should be enjoying home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Given how prepared Gregg Popovich gets his troops come springtime, OKC's going to have a street fight on its hands if it hopes to return to the Finals.

The narrative is nothing if not intriguing: In one corner, the exemplars of all-season's stability. In the other, the game's most explosive one-two punch. Irresistible force—you know the rest.

Ask The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry, however, and the end result might be more cut and dry than we think. From a roundtable discussion posted early Thursday: 

Thunder on Thursday. Thunder in May. Oklahoma City is just too talented for San Antonio these days. The Thunder puts a ton of pressure on the Spurs, and San Antonio simply doesn’t have enough counters for OKC’s weapons. The games always will be competitive, but the Thunder has matured over the past two seasons to find a way to execute down the stretch and make just enough plays to come away with wins.

We're inclined to give the slightest of edges to the Thunder simply by virtue of the regular season undercard. But if the Spurs have taught us anything these past 15 years, it's that doubters and haters are gluttons for their own wayward words.

Glenn James/Getty Images

 

2. Who's Gonna Grab That Last Chair?

Want to hear something crazy? Of course you do: The Grizzlies, Mavericks and Suns will all play one another over the final few days of the season.

Which means an already topsy-turvy playoff train is about to get even more rowdy.

Here's how those three season series have broken down thus far:

Dallas and Phoenix: Series tied 1-1.

Dallas and Memphis: Dallas leads 3-0.

Memphis and Phoenix: Memphis leads 3-0.

Something has to give. Hopefully it's not our collective countenance.

 

3. Can the Clippers' D Tighten Up?

We know Chris Paul is a superhero capable of leading, like, six different lives as a basketball player and insurance salesman across multiple generations but sooner or later his boys are going to have to step up on D.

Since March 17, L.A. has allowed 100 or more points in seven of its nine games, going 6-3 in that stretch.

What's that, you say? Raw points mean nothing if not adjusted for pace? Here ya go, smart alecks: In that span, the Clips are registering the 16th best defensive rating in the league (106), per NBA.com, more than a full four points off their season average of 101.7.

To his credit, head coach Doc Rivers has been cognizant of the Clippers' sporadic D for a while, offering up the following analysis in an interview with the Orange County Register's Dan Woike in early February:

We have not crossed that threshold yet, where we’re consistent and every time you see us play, you say ‘Man. I know they talk and I know their offense is efficient, but they’re a heck of a defensive team. When you look at us now, you say, ‘When they play, they can play defense.’ We have to cross that threshold to be an elite team.

Eking out 112-108 wins over the Suns might cut the mustard now but pitted against certified assassins like the Spurs—whom the Clips could conceivably face in the Western Conference Finals—that kind of defensive showing will get you swept out the door faster than you can say "spring cleaning."

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