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Update: 4/17/13
Since the playoff picture in the West is evolving on a daily basis, here's an updated breakdown of each of the nine teams that are jockeying for postseason positioning. This update is current with the conclusion of the NBA's regular season on Wednesday, April 17.

Oklahoma City Thunder, 60-22
Current Playoff Seed: 1; Potential Playoff Seeds: 1
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Rockets
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: The reigning Western Conference champs have clinched the No. 1 seed and will meet the Lakers in Round 1.

San Antonio Spurs, 58-24
Current Playoff Seed: 2; Potential Playoff Seeds: 2
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Lakers
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: San Antonio has the No. 2 seed locked up and will meet the Lakers in the opening round of the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets, 57-25
Current Playoff Seed: 3; Potential Playoff Seeds: 3
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Warriors
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: Denver secured the third seed with a win over the Suns on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Clippers, 55-26
Current Playoff Seed: 4; Potential Playoff Seeds: 4
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Grizzlies
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: The Clippers have locked up the fourth seed and will play Memphis in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Memphis Grizzlies, 56-26
Current Playoff Seed: 5; Potential Playoff Seeds: 5
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Clippers
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: The Grizzlies eliminated Utah from playoff contention in Wednesday's regular season finale and will face the Clippers in the first round.

Golden State Warriors, 46-35
Current Playoff Seed: 6; Potential Playoff Seeds: 6
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Nuggets
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: The Warriors won their season finale in Portland on Wednesday to secure the sixth seed. The Dubs will meet the Nuggets in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers, 45-37
Current Playoff Seed: 7; Potential Playoff Seeds: 7
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Spurs
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: The Lakers beat the Rockets in overtime on Wednesday to steal the seventh seed from Houston.

Houston Rockets, 45-37
Current Playoff Seed:8; Potential Playoff Seeds: 8
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: Thunder
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: The Rockets lost out on the seventh spot with Wednesday's OT defeat in Los Angeles.

Utah Jazz, 43-39
Current Playoff Seed: Out of Playoffs; Potential Playoff Seeds: N/A
Potential First Round Playoff Opponents: N/A
Remaining Regular Season Games: N/A
Playoff Outlook: Utah was eliminated from the playoff picture with Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies.

Update: 4/11/13
Wednesday's slate of NBA action certainly impacted the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Denver continued its home winning streak with a 96-86 victory at the expense of the Spurs, the Lakers won at Portland and Dallas suffered a home loss to the Suns. As a result, San Antonio currently has the second seed in the West, Denver is up a full game on the Grizzlies for third place and the Lakers have a one-game advantage over the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot. Dallas, meanwhile, has been officially eliminated from playoff contention.

For the first time in six years, the Warriors are heading to the NBA Playoffs. That we know for sure, it’s just the rest of the playoff picture in the West that seems to be a muddled mess. Here’s an attempt at trying to clear some of that up …

As you’re probably well aware, the top eight teams in both the Western and Eastern Conferences will reach the postseason. The Warriors and Rockets each clinched their playoff spot Tuesday night, and they join the Spurs, Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies in the Western Conference Playoffs. That leaves one postseason slot up for grabs among the Lakers, Jazz and Mavericks, and we’ll get to that later. Click here for a current look of the playoff picture, and below are the standings as they are today (only teams in playoff contention shown below) ...

But first, let’s break up the Western Conference Playoffs into three tiers. The Spurs and Thunder have separated themselves from the rest of the conference, so they make up Tier 1, while Tier 2 involves the three teams meddling for the third, fourth and fifth seeds: the Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies. Lastly, Tier 3 includes the Warriors, Rockets, Jazz, Lakers and Mavericks, the latter of which is only mentioned here because they have not yet been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. These teams are battling for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds, and the remaining two squads out of that group will miss the playoffs entirely.

The Spurs currently have a half-game lead over the Thunder for the best record in the Western Conference, but whether or not that will be true when the regular season ends one week from tonight remains to be seen. San Antonio has injury concerns with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the perennial Western Conference power has lost three of its last five games. Furthermore, San Antonio’s remaining schedule features tonight’s game in Denver (see update above), where the Nuggets have won 20-straight home games, as well as road games against the Lakers (fighting for their playoff lives) and Warriors (determined not to face a Tier 1 team in the first round of the playoffs).

The Thunder have a slightly easier schedule. They follow Thursday’s road game against the Warriors by playing the back end of a back-to-back in Portland before closing out the season with a pair of home games against Sacramento and Milwaukee. Oklahoma City currently owns the tie-breaker over the Spurs by virtue of a better conference record – the teams’ split their head-to-head matchups with two wins apiece – so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Thunder overtake the top spot in the West by the end of the regular season.

The Thunder will try to move past the Spurs for the top seed during the final week of the regular season. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

By rule, a division winner can have no worse than a fourth seed in the playoffs. As a result, the Clippers, who are a game and a half behind the Grizzlies as far as wins and losses go, currently occupy fourth place. With four of their five remaining games against teams out of playoff contention, it’s not unconceivable that the Clippers make a run for the third seed. But even if they go undefeated the rest of the way, they would need some help to catch up to a surging Nuggets team.

Denver has been an elite NBA team during the second half of the season. The Nuggets recently had a 15-game winning streak and their extraordinary depth has allowed them to overcome recent injuries to a pair of starters (Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson). They are currently in third place and only a half-game ahead of Memphis (see update above), but they do play three of their five remaining games at home – again, Denver is on a 20-game home winning streak. Furthermore, the Nuggets win the head-to-head tie-breakers against both the Clippers and Grizzlies, so they look to have the strongest case to end up with the three seed in the playoffs.

Out of the three Tier 2 teams, Memphis has the toughest remaining schedule with upcoming games against the Rockets, Clippers and Jazz, all teams competing for seeding and in Utah’s case, fighting for their playoff life. That’s not to say that Grizzlies can’t go undefeated during the final week of the regular season. Memphis has won six of its last seven games and will surely present problems to anybody they face in the playoffs.

The Warriors and Rockets have clinched their playoff spots and look to have a fairly secure hold on the sixth and seventh seeds. However, who gets sixth and who gets seventh will be a close call. The Warriors are currently a game ahead of Houston in the standings, but the Rockets own the tie-breaker thanks to their 3-1 record against Golden State this season. The Warriors have a tougher remaining schedule on paper with a back-to-back against the Thunder and Lakers on Thursday and Friday, respectively, followed by Monday’s home game against the Spurs, while Houston has tough matchups with the Grizzlies and Lakers sandwiching a back-to-back with Sacramento and Phoenix. Who gets the sixth spot out of these two teams can really come down to the last day of the season.

The Warriors are trying to hold off the Rockets and maintain possession of sixth place. (Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)

As if the playoff race weren’t interesting enough, the eighth and final spot will likely go down to the wire as well. The Lakers are currently up a half-game on Utah (see update above), and they can stretch that lead to a full game with a win tonight in Portland. After tonight’s game, the Lakers will close out the season with home games against the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets. Utah figures to have an easier schedule with two games against the Timberwolves before their season finale at Memphis. Furthermore, Utah owns the tie-breaker and would advance to the playoffs should they finish with the same record as the Lakers. Dallas, meanwhile, can sneak into the playoffs if they go on a 5-0 run to end the season, but anything short of that will make it next to impossible.

So what will the final standings look like in the Western Conference? Well as you can see, that’s not exactly clear, but here is how we see the season playing out.

    1. Oklahoma City Thunder
    2. San Antonio Spurs
    3. Denver Nuggets
    4. Los Angeles Clippers
    5. Memphis Grizzlies
    6. Golden State Warriors
    7. Houston Rockets
    8. Utah Jazz

Of course, that prediction might change with the wind, so check back with us again tomorrow.

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