Why Blazers, Grizzlies Have Edge for NBA’s Western Conference Play-in Tournament

Why Blazers, Grizzlies Have Edge for NBA’s Western Conference Play-in Tournament
Kevin C. Cox/Associated PressLet’s call the NBA’s race for eighth and ninth place in the Western Conference what it is: pure, total, brain-bending anarchy.Which makes it awesome.And also utterly confusing.Removing the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings from the fracas has done little to simplify the range of outcomes. The Memphis Grizzlies (currently eighth), Portland…
Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard (0) dribbles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Let’s name the NBA‘s proceed for eighth and ninth put within the Western Conference what it is miles: pure, whole, brain-bending anarchy.

Which makes it awesome.

And also completely confusing.

Striking off the Unusual Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings from the fracas has performed miniature to simplify the vary of outcomes. The Memphis Grizzlies (currently eighth), Portland Path Blazers (ninth), Phoenix Suns (10th) and San Antonio Spurs (11th) enter their final two common-season matchups with out a more than a single game setting apart them from each other within the loss column.

Any one of them can technically pause eighth. Or ninth. Their doable paths to either of those spots are seemingly never-ending. John Hollinger of The Athletic did an incredible job breaking down what wants to happen for each squad to crack the play-in match. I cannot pause it any better and can simply now now not peril attempting.

Instead, on condition that labyrinth of logistics, I’m more occupied with looking out to answer the quiz each person’s been soliciting for the reason that league unveiled the restart structure: Which two groups on the 2d are most attention-grabbing positioned to qualify for the play-in match?

           

4. San Antonio Spurs

Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Final Opponents:  Houston Rockets (Aug. 11), Utah Jazz (Aug. 13) 

Counting out the Spurs is for no-appropriate nincompoops. They’re the friggin’ Spurs. They’re working with 22 straight postseason appearances for a motive. They’re here, alive for among the play-in spots the least bit, on fable of they build now now not seem like the previous-their-shelf-life pushover artists many painted them to be pre-bubble. 

Yours in truth became among those cretins predicting San Antonio’s return to the lottery. Might perhaps perhaps as successfully private consistent.

To guarantee that, this is now now not me throwing wet bog paper on the wall and hoping it sticks. No longer completely anyway. Their Disney World romp staunch doesn’t feel sustainable.

Derrick White has been colorful however left Sunday’s steal over the Pelicans with a left knee damage. Keldon Johnson hasn’t missed a extensive-commence three since, approximately, the Tim Duncan generation. Drew Eubanks is de facto taking half in and birthday party-crashing photos on the rim and striking in situation. Only the Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers are shooting a better share from three.

Losing or now now not having White at his most attention-grabbing is adequate by itself to doubt the Spurs. Even though he’s beautiful, their presumably direction to the play-in match entails a success out. That is…a medium-sized snarl.

Houston doesn’t hold anything else to in truth play for however is now now not sitting each person Tuesday. James Harden and Eric Gordon have to now not taking half in; Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker and Russell Westbrook have to be.

The Jazz are more of a wild card. They so obviously don’t hold any pastime in finishing fifth and taking half within the Rockets and subsequently taught a masterclass in mid-game tanking Monday. But within the event that they wish the sixth seed and the Dallas Mavericks hold the probability to steal out, they’ll per chance, presumably, doubtlessly care concerning the waste results of Thursday’s matchup with the Spurs, which, in turn, could perhaps be terrifying recordsdata for San Antonio.

              

3. Phoenix Suns

Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Final Opponents: Philadelphia 76ers (Aug. 11), Dallas Mavericks (Aug. 13)

Writing off the undefeated, Disney World-most attention-grabbing Suns feels fancy basketball treason.

Mikal Bridges is erasing opposing players from the planet at will. Jevon Carter is picking up his defensive assignments exterior their resort room. Cameron Johnson is hitting threes and making like a flash passes and hardly ever serving as a stanchion in cement on the much less glamorous waste. Cameron Payne is de facto among the appropriate shooters alive. Ricky Rubio is hitting 44.4 p.c of his treys. Deandre Ayton appears to be like fancy a viable No. 2. 

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Oh, yeah, and Phoenix has this Devin Booker man. It appears to be like he’s most attention-grabbing appropriate. He’s averaging 30.3 positive aspects and 6.0 assists within the bubble on absurd efficiency:

That it’s also possible to realize why here’s the sort of tricky name. It be even more difficult intellectual Booker played below 30 minutes in Monday’s steal and Ayton, who did now not join the Suns unless after tip-off on fable of he missed a coronavirus test, logged staunch over 17. They’ve to be recent for the 2d waste of Tuesday’s support-to-support against the Sixers, who could be lacking Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and, doubtlessly, a bunch of alternative folks:

Whether or now now not the Mavericks raise to play at corpulent bore Thursday depends on their want and ability to snare sixth put. Warding off the Clippers within the predominant round would register as a steal, however Dallas has to steal its final two games and wants San Antonio to beat Utah for that to happen.

Striking the Suns here is each a hedge against the Mavericks doubtlessly caring about Thursday’s and, more than that, the sheer scenario of going undefeated at Disney. Plus, they’ll composed need a miniature bit bit of motivate—from Memphis or Portland—to take hold of a play-in slot even within the event that they sail 8-0.

           

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Final Opponents: Boston Celtics (Aug. 11), Milwaukee Bucks (Aug. 13)

The Grizzlies juuust edge out the ought to composed-be-lengthy-shot Suns, and I form now now not feel gigantic about it. They’re here by virtue of sheer comfort. They might simply lose each of their last two contests and composed clinch a play-in explain, as Hollinger mapped out:

“Memphis will make the play-in with either a steal, or losses by each Phoenix and San Antonio, or with two losses by Portland and one by either Phoenix or San Antonio. 

“Memphis clinches the 8th seed with two wins, or a steal and a Portland loss. More improbably, they’re the 8th seed if Portland loses twice and Phoenix and San Antonio each lose as a minimal once.”

Presumably this composed overestimates the Grizzlies’ chances.

They form now now not hold Jaren Jackson Jr. (torn left meniscus) or Justise Winslow (hip), and Tyus Jones stays sidelined with his have appropriate knee damage. Hardly any of their lineups make sense anymore. They’ve an Indiana Pacers West vibe to them, outperforming relative to the skills on the bottom, however they’re desperately thin on exterior shooting, and Dillon Brooks is actively looking out to give Grizz fans a heart attack:

Shedding each of the following two games is a decided possibility—and sure hinges on how the Bucks come Thursday’s showdown. The Celtics have the Grizzlies’ 2020 first-round receive (top-six security) and hold every motive to lunge for the steal. Milwaukee is already scheduled to face the Orlando Magic within the predominant round and has zero incentive to roll out a corpulent solid against Memphis unless the honest recently returned Eric Bledsoe wants more reps with the starters.

Keep in mind this a lukewarm guess that the Grizzlies determine a come to lunge 1-1 over the following two games. Ja Morant’s efficiency is come down, however he’s composed Ja Morant. Brandon Clarke and Jonas Valanciunas are severely better than they’ve shown.

Presumably Kyle Anderson has a massive game in him. Or per chance De’Anthony Melton forces 37 steals against a Bucks half-court offense that’s presumably lacking Giannis Antetokounmpo. I form now now not know. These items’s onerous. I remorseful about all the pieces.

            

1. Portland Path Blazers

Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Final Opponents: Dallas Mavericks (Aug. 11), Brooklyn Nets (Aug. 13)

It speaks to the fragility and Bol Bol-thin margin for error of this total direction of that I’m most assured within the Blazers bagging among the two play-in spots.

Cherish the Grizzlies, they regulate their very have fate. A success out secures their entry. Caring for the Nets mustn’t be an subject. Their corpulent-strength bubble roster is now now not even half of their staunch corpulent-strength roster. The Mavs, on the different hand, hold something to play for—insofar as they wish to pause sixth in preference to seventh. Issues could bag gruesome for the Blazers if Dallas’ offense is on level.

On the different hand, falling to the Mavericks wouldn’t be the waste of the enviornment. Portland has other ways into eighth or ninth put—hypotheticals that turn out to be exponentially more seemingly ought to composed among the Spurs or Suns lose Tuesday.

Presumably the Blazers form now now not deserve the excellent thing concerning the doubt. They detestable 20th in positive aspects allowed per 100 possessions for the reason that restart and could perhaps now not receive a come to beat a Clippers squad that became more or much less, design of, definitely looking out to motivate boost their postseason chances. 

Restful, Portland has Damian Lillard, a strolling 40-to-50 piece. CJ McCollum is an offensive weapon in his have appropriate. Jusuf Nurkic is already interesting severely better on the defensive waste. Carmelo Anthony is shooting successfully. Gary Trent Jr. has now not the least bit, ever, ever missed a three. Opposing offenses are swishing nearly 46 p.c of their extensive-commence threes against them. That ought to composed normalize abruptly.

This group doesn’t staunch seem fancy the presumably play-in entrant. It feels fancy the well-liked to steal it.

                  

Until otherwise famous, stats courtesy of NBA.comBasketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass and recent heading into Friday’s games. Wage and cap-private recordsdata by project of Basketball InsidersEarly Bird Rights and Spotrac.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Narrative. Note him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R’s Adam Fromal.

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