Spurs: Updated Play-In Projections, Path, Magic Number to Postseason

Dejounte Murray
Dejounte Murray / Bob Levey/GettyImages

The weekend's NBA slate saw several teams in the Western Conference jockey for playoff positioning, and the San Antonio Spurs were in the thick of the action.

While the Portland Trail Blazers helped the Spurs' cause of making the NBA Play-In Tournament on April 12th, San Antonio still has some work to do to clinch that chance.

Following the weekend's games, here's how the standings at the bottom of the West look. Keep in mind, seeds seven through 10 will be in the tournament to decide who will claim the 7th and 8th spots in the postseason.

The loser of the seven-eight matchup will host the winner of the nine-ten matchup, with the winner of that second game claiming eighth. Meanwhile, the winner of the seven-eight game automatically claims seventh.

Western Conference: Seeds 8-11

8. LA Clippers: 39-40 (clinched play-in)
9. New Orleans Pelicans: 34-44 (4.5 GB LAC)
10. San Antonio Spurs: 33-45 (1.0 GB NO)
11. Los Angeles Lakers: 31-47 (2.0 GB SA)

The Clippers are locked in at 8th, but there can still be some shuffling within seeds 9-11. San Antonio currently sits at one game behind the Pelicans for the 9th seed and has a two-game lead plus the tiebreaker over the Lakers. Let's start with their path to overtaking the Pelicans, which would lead to them hosting the first NBA Play-In Tournament game.

The Path to Taking 9th

The Pelicans have four games remaining and would lose in a tiebreaker scenario to the Spurs. Here's how many games San Antonio would have to win based on how many games New Orleans wins.

If the Pelicans go 3-1, the Spurs would have to sweep their last four games. If they go 2-2, the Spurs would need to win three of four. If New Orleans goes 1-3, the Spurs need to win two of four. In a best-case scenario that probably won't happen, the Pelicans going 0-4 means the Spurs need to win just one more game to claim 9th.

The Pelicans' remaining schedule is as follows:

@ Sacramento Kings
vs. Portland Trail Blazers
@ Memphis Grizzlies
vs. Golden State Warriors

A safe bet would have the Blazers at least beating Portland and probably beating Sacramento. Memphis and Golden State will be much tougher, even if they rest some key players.

The Path to Holding Off the Lakers

The path to keeping the Lakers behind in the standings for good is simple: the Spurs are in with any combination of two wins or Lakers' losses. This means if Los Angeles drops two more games out of their last four, they're out no matter what. If they lose one and the Spurs win one, the Lakers are out. The earliest San Antonio can clinch a Play-In Tournament spot is Tuesday if they beat Denver and the Lakers lose to the Suns.

Here's what the Lakers' schedule looks like to close out the season:

@ Phoenix Suns
@ Golden State Warriors
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
@ Denver Nuggets

The Lakers should only be favored in one of these matchups (OKC), so it's going to be an uphill battle to sneak their way past the Spurs at this point. Still, San Antonio's remaining schedule is the third-toughest in the NBA, rated as more difficult than the Lakers (5th-toughest).

@ Denver Nuggets
@ Minnesota Timberwolves
vs. Golden State Warriors
@ Dallas Mavericks

If I had to guess, I'd say the most likely wins would be the last two games of the season. Even more than most other teams, the Spurs have no answer for Nikola Jokic or Karl-Anthony Towns. While they'll be the underdog in all four of these games, there's a possibility the Warriors and Mavericks might not have anything to play for by those final two games.

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San Antonio controls its own destiny down the stretch, and if they're up to the task twice against four teams headed for the playoffs, they'll have a chance to shock the world in a play-in scenario.