The NBA: Our 2013 Playoff Projections – Western Conference

In the previous post, we looked at the Playoff Projections for the Eastern Conference.

Among the interesting things we uncovered were the following:
- Indiana will overtake New York for the 2nd seed
- Atlanta will get the 4th seed via a superior tiebreaker over Brooklyn
- The Bulls will fall to 6th place
- The Bucks might actually be a potential upset-conscious team in the Playoffs

Now we will look at the Western Conference, where things are even crazier. There are three teams still in the thick of the fight for the top spot and about six teams going all out to get the 7th and 8th seeds.

Shall we?

Note: All standings and schedules were taken on March 3, 2013 (Manila time). To wrap your head around the methodology, refer to the previous post.

This is the order of the teams based on their current standings:
1)   San Antonio Spurs:
a.     Current Standing: 46-14 – 22 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 1 (projected wins = 0)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 21 (projected wins = 16)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 62-20 (0.756)
e.     Commentary: The Spurs are on pace to hold on to the West’s top spot, but with Tony Parker out for a significant amount of time, don’t be surprised if they actually drop more than 6 games in the remainder of the season. This is significant because Miami is on pace to win the same total number of games, so a dip in the Spurs’ play could mean the Heat will enjoy homecourt all throughout the Playoffs. Please no!

Tim Duncan and the Spurs can still end up #1 overall
in the NBA.
(image by Eric Gay/AP)

2)   Oklahoma City Thunder:
a.     Current Standing: 42-16 – 24 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 2 (projected wins = 1)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 22 (projected wins = 17)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 60-22 (0.732)
e.     Commentary: Oklahoma City will no longer meet the Heat, unless it’s in the Finals, and they will meet a Parker-less Spurs squad twice before the season ends. What does this all mean? The Thunder have a clear path to securing one of the top two West spots and MAYBE a golden shot at unseating San Antonio as the conference’s best. The Thunder, however, have been plenty inconsistent of late, going just 6-4 in their last 10.

3)   LA Clippers:
a.     Current Standing: 43-18 – 21 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 4 (projected wins = 1)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 17 (projected wins = 13)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 57-25 (0.695)
e.     Commentary: Years from now, this will be referred to as a breakthrough season for the team perennially labeled as LA’s “other” squad. The Clips have the toughest sked compared to SAS and OKC, but they don’t need a top two spot anyway. They have a better road record than the Thunder and they hold a 2-1 head-to-head edge against the Spurs. It’s all simple, really – the Clippers, no matter how high they’re seeded, might as well be the most dangerous West team come the Playoffs.

4)   Memphis Grizzlies:
a.     Current Standing: 38-19 – 25 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 2 (projected wins = 1)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 23 (projected wins = 17)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 56-26 (0.683)
e.     Commentary: If the Grizzlies play their cards right, they should threaten to overtake the Clippers in the West ladder. They just might actually do it, too. Memphis has won 8 of its last 10 (prior to today’s win over Orlando), and look to have a relatively light schedule to wind up the season. As long as they stay true to their potential, the Grizzlies are going to be a tough nut to crack in the postseason.

5)   Denver Nuggets:
a.     Current Standing: 38-22 – 22 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 6 (projected wins = 2)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 16 (projected wins = 12)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 52-30 (0.634)
e.     Commentary: The Nuggets will run into some turbulence in March as most of their “stronger” foes will be waiting for them. They should make a late run to end the season, though, as Dallas, Portland, Milwaukee, and Phoenix are the only ones in the way. Overall, the Nuggets, at their best, are world-beaters, but, at their normal state, their dangerously self-destructive.

6)   Golden State Warriors:
a.     Current Standing: 33-27 – 22 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 4 (projected wins = 1)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 18 (projected wins = 14)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 48-34 (0.585)
e.     Commentary: Just like the Clippers, the Warriors can look at this season as a breakthrough season no matter how it ends. David Lee saw a resurgence in his game, and Steph Curry has been nothing short of awesome. Klay Thompson is growing into a near-top-tier shooter, while guys like Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, and rookie Harrison Barnes have been solid. They will need every single bit of that “solid-ness,” though, as the race for the bottom seeds heat up.

7)   Utah Jazz:
a.     Current Standing: 32-27 – 23 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 11 (projected wins = 3)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 12 (projected wins = 9)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 44-38 (0.537)
e.     Commentary: The Jazz kept their frontline core of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and that should help them stay as favorites to clinch a low Playoff seed. It won’t do much in terms of their potential to crack the Conference Semifinals, but at least the Jazz will leave their fans with something positive when either or both of those combo bigs leave the franchise mid-2013.

8)   Houston Rockets:
a.     Current Standing: 32-28 – 22 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 9 (projected wins = 2)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 13 (projected wins = 10)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 44-38 (0.537)
e.     Commentary: Aaaand here things get mighty testy. With just about the same amount of games to go, Houston has a relatively lighter schedule even if they’re lower in the Power Rankings. If, indeed, the Rockets draw with Utah for 8th spot, their season head-to-head will come into play. Right now, HOU owns a 2-1 edge with still one game between the two teams coming up. The thing, though, is that the Rockets are +42 because of their latest rout of Utah (125-80). The Jazz need to beat Houston by more than 42 points to stay at 7th spot. Gulp.

9)   LA Lakers:
a.     Current Standing: 29-30 – 23 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 10 (projected wins = 3)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 13 (projected wins = 10)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 42-40 (0.512)
e.     Commentary: It will be mighty tight, but all indications point to the Lakers stumbling out of the Playoff race late in April. They have lighter sked compared to Utah, but that might not be enough to tow them into the postseason unless they find some consistency to back-up their newfound chemistry. It also doesn’t help that most of the Lakers’ remaining games are on the road, where they have won only 10 of 29 games so far.

10)  Portland Trailblazers:
a.     Current Standing: 27-31 – 24 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 19 (projected wins = 5)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 5 (projected wins = 4)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 36-46 (0.439)
e.     Commentary: A killer schedule awaits the Blazers, and it surely won’t help them climb in the West. Heck, they probably won’t even make .500 by season’s end. Oh well, at least Damian Lillard has a good shot at being ROY.

11)  Dallas Mavericks:
a.     Current Standing: 26-32 – 24 games left
b.     # of games against “stronger” teams: 17 (projected wins = 4)
c.      # of games against “weaker” teams: 7 (projected wins = 5)
d.     Projected Final Standing: 35-47 (0.427)
e.     Commentary: How can the Spurs age well and the Mavs age terribly? The bottom-line is this team is about 8 years past its collective prime. I believe the 9-win projection might even be too much to ask.

Okay, so WHEN the season ends, the West Playoff picture will look like this:

1 – San Antonio Spurs vs. 8 – Utah Jazz

4 – Memphis Grizzlies vs. 5 – Denver Nuggets

2 – Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 7 – Houston Rockets

Russell Westbrook and Jeremy Lin look like their headed for
a first round Playoff match-up.
(image by Pat Sullivan/AP)

3 – LA Clippers vs. 6 – Golden State Warriors

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network and the Associated Press):
March 3
Final Score: Miami 99, New York 93
New York, NY (Sports Network) - LeBron James netted 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Miami Heat matched a franchise record with their 14th straight victory by edging the New York Knicks, 99-93, in a battle between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Dwyane Wade scored 20 points with eight boards and eight assists and Chris Bosh scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half for the Heat, who defeated the Knicks for the first time in three tries this season. The Heat trailed by 14 points at the break, but outscored the Knicks 54-34 in the second half. Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 32 points for the Knicks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Jason Kidd had 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from behind the arc and J.R. Smith added 13 points and 12 rebounds in defeat.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 108, LA Clippers 104
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Russell Westbrook's baseline jumper with 26.7 seconds remaining gave Oklahoma City just enough breathing room as the Thunder held on for a 108-104 decision over the Los Angeles Clippers en route to sweeping the season series. Westbrook finished with 29 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Thunder, who bounced back from a last-second defeat at Denver on Friday. Kevin Durant paced all scorers with 35 points to go along with nine boards and four assists and Serge Ibaka added 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the victory. Chris Paul scored 26 points, dished out eight helpers and pulled down six rebounds for the Clippers, who had a four-game winning streak come to an end. Blake Griffin had 20 points and nine boards and Jamal Crawford also scored 20 in defeat.

Final Score: Memphis 108, Orlando 82
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - It didn't take long for the Memphis Grizzlies to get back in the win column. Tayshaun Prince led six Grizzlies in double figures with 14 points and Memphis downed the Orlando Magic, 108-82, on Sunday. Memphis had its club-record eight-game winning streak snapped on Friday against the Heat in Miami. Tony Allen and Mike Conley each netted 13 points, while Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter added 12 apiece for Memphis. Ed Davis finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the triumph. Andrew Nicholson, Arron Afflalo and E'Twaun Moore all had 12 points for the Magic, who have dropped 20 of their last 22 contests. Orlando is 4-31 overall since Dec. 20.

Final Score: Sacramento 119, Charlotte 83
Sacramento, CA (Sports Network) - John Salmons netted five 3-pointers en route to 22 points and the Sacramento Kings torched the Charlotte Bobcats with 119-83 victory on Sunday. The Kings buried 13 triples for the game and created such enormous separation by outscoring the Bobcats 70-32 in the second and third quarters. Marcus Thornton scored 18 points, Isaiah Thomas had 10 with seven assists and Tyreke Evans added 13 points and seven rebounds. Each player buried two 3-pointers to help Sacramento collect its second win in three games. Jason Thompson totaled a double-double with 18 points and 14 boards, while DeMarcus Cousins finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in the victory. Charlotte made just 36.4 percent of its shots in its sixth straight loss. Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens each scored 12 points for the Bobcats, who have dropped 10 of their last 11 on the road.

Final Score: Washington 90, Philadelphia 87
Washington, DC (Sports Network) - John Wall scored the game's final six points to lift the Washington Wizards over the road-weary Philadelphia 76ers, 90-87, at Verizon Center. Wizards star rookie Bradley Beal suffered an ankle sprain late in the fourth quarter with the Sixers leading by three. Wall turned it over on the possession following Beal's exit, but quickly recovered to hit a pair of jumpers around his tying and go-ahead free throws to snap Washington's two-game slide. Wall and Martell Webster each netted 16 points, Beal had 14 and Emeka Okafor added 12 with 16 rebounds for the victors. Dorell Wright led the Sixers with 15 points off the bench but missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer near the buzzer. Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday each scored 14 points in Philadelphia's 10th straight road loss.

Final Score: Houston 136, Dallas 103
Houston, TX (Sports Network) - The Houston Rockets caught fire in the third quarter and never looked back. Chandler Parsons netted 11 of his 32 points in the third and the Rockets routed the Dallas Mavericks, 136-103, on Sunday. Houston outscored Dallas 44-17 in the third. The Rockets shot 70 percent (14- of-20) from the floor and nailed six of their 10 3-point attempts. Parsons and Harden, who had 14 of his 21 points in the third, hit three triples apiece in the frame. Parsons made his first 11 shots from the field. He was 12-of-13 overall and finished 6-of-7 from beyond the arc for Houston, which has won four of its last six games. O.J. Mayo tallied 18 points to lead the Mavericks, who have dropped four of their last five contests on the heels of a three-game winning streak.

Final Score: San Antonio 114, Detroit 75
San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) - The Spurs were without Tony Parker, but his absence hardly slowed them down on Sunday as San Antonio routed the Detroit Pistons, 114-75, at AT&T Center. Tim Duncan filled the stat sheet with 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five blocks to help supplement the loss of Parker, who is expected to miss a month with a sprained ankle. Manu Ginobili scored all 17 of his points in the first half, while Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard added 16 and 14 points, respectively, in San Antonio's second straight blowout victory. Detroit failed to amass 20 points in the first, third or fourth quarters. The Pistons committed 19 turnovers for the contest in the team's fifth loss in six games. Greg Monroe totaled 16 points and eight boards, Charlie Villanueva had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Jose Calderon scored 14 in the setback.

Final Score: Indiana 97, Chicago 92
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - David West had 31 points and seven rebounds in the Indiana Pacers' 97-92 win over the Chicago Bulls. George Hill added 21 points, six boards and five assists for the Pacers, who have won seven of their last eight games. Indiana won the season series against Chicago for the first time since 2003-04, when the Pacers last won the Central Division. Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler netted 20 points apiece for Chicago, which had its brief two-game winning streak snapped. Joakim Noah added 14 points, 10 boards and five helpers in defeat.

Final Score: LA Lakers 99, Atlanta 98
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Lakers are finally back to being average. At least record-wise. Kobe Bryant had 34 points, including the go-ahead layup with nine seconds left in the Lakers' 99-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Bryant got the ball along the right wing and drove past Al Horford with the right-handed dribble before meeting Josh Smith at the rim and getting his layup to drop from high off the glass. Steve Blake stole Smith's pass at the other end to seal the win for the Los Angeles. At 30-30, the Lakers are .500 for the first time since Dec. 28 when they were 15-15. Los Angeles is 2 1/2 games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Dwight Howard added 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers. Horford donated 24 points for Atlanta, which has lost two straight on the heels of a four-game winning streak. Smith recorded 19 points, seven boards and seven assists in defeat.

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