By Randy Renner
Just three more days left in the NBA's regular season and it is looking more and more like the Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks will go at it in the first round of the playoffs.
In fact wins tonight by the Thunder (at New Orleans), Suns (hosting Memphis) and Warriors (hosting Minnesota) would lockup the #2 seed in the Western Conference for OKC and the #7 seed for the Mavs.
Oklahoma City finishes the season against the Pelicans tonight in New Orleans and at home Wednesday against Detroit.
Dallas just has one game left, at Memphis on Wednesday night.
If somehow the Thunder lose to the Pelicans (a team they clobbered at home Friday night) then they will either need to beat Detroit Wednesday night at home or hope the LA Clippers lose to either Denver in Los Angeles Tuesday night a or at Portland Wednesday night.
An OKC loss tonight to the Pelicans would give the Clips the tie-breaker (based on records against Western Conference opponents) if the Thunder and Clippers finished tied.
If Memphis beats Phoenix tonight instead of the other way around and follows that up with a win at home against Dallas on Wednesday then the Grizzlies will finish as the 7th seed and the Mavericks would fall to the 8th spot.
The Thunder would not play the Suns regardless because the best Phoenix can do is finish with the 8th seed meaning a trip to San Antonio to start the playoffs.
There's also an outside shot that the Thunder playoff opponent could be Golden State, if the Warriors lose their final two games they would fall to the 7th spot if Dallas beats Memphis Wednesday or if the Grizzlies beat both Phoenix and Dallas because the Griz would jump all the way to #6.
The Thunder could also play Golden State if OKC loses tonight and Wednesday and the Clippers win out giving L-A the #2 seed and the Thunder #3. The Warriors would remain at #6 if they split their last two games.
But again, if the Thunder win tonight and the Suns win at home against Memphis and Golden State wins at home against the T-Wolves tonight then it's Thunder-Mavs in the first round no matter what else happens the rest of the way.
So the Thunder playoff picture either becomes crystal clear by the time tonight's game are over, or we may not know for sure how things will play out until the last games of the season on Wednesday.