Updated: Clearing up the Spurs, Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies Western Conference playoff race

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Can you believe that the Nuggets only have 1 game left in the 2012-13 regular season? It's true, time flies when you're having fun!

With the season coming down to the wire, there are a lot of questions about how the playoff picture could shape up. Let's get to the bottom of it, right here - right now.

Can the Nuggets finish ahead of the Clippers?

Yes and no. Stay with me here. The three division winners (Southwest, Northwest, Pacific) are guaranteed a top-4 seed in the playoffs. As of now, the Spurs, the Thunder, and the Clippers lead their respective divisions. Here is the rule from NBA.com:

Teams 1 to 4 in each conference are the three division winners and the team with the next best regular-season record, with the seeding of these four teams determined by regular-season record. The playoffs seedings of Teams 5 to 8 are based upon regular-season record. Ties are broken pursuant to the rules set forth below.

What this means is that the division winners are guaranteed a top-4 seed, so for fun let's say this scenario plays out: Spurs 61 wins, Thunder 60 wins, Nuggets 57 wins, Clippers 56 wins, and Grizzlies 56 wins.

The seeds would go:

1.) Spurs - division leader
2.) Thunder - division leader
3.) Nuggets
4.) Clippers - division leader
5.) Grizzlies

Even thought the Clips were Pacific division winners, the Nuggets had a better record. Thus, Denver would get the No. 3 seed and the Clips would still be a top-4 seed.

What if the Grizzlies and Nuggets finish with more wins than the Clippers?

Let's say the end of the season breaks this way: Spurs 61 wins, Thunder 60 wins, Grizzlies 56 wins, Nuggets 57 wins, and Clippers 55 wins.

The seeds would go:

1.) Spurs - division leader
2.) Thunder - division leader
3.) Grizzlies
4.) Clippers - division leader
5.) Nuggets

The Nuggets would be unable to secure a top-4 seed because again, division leaders are guaranteed a top-4 spot. Even though the Clippers would be the No. 4 seed, the Nuggets would actually have home-court advantage in a playoff series against them (Games 1 and 2 in Denver) because of regular season wins. This is a goofy rule.

What if there is a tie between the Nuggets and Clippers or Nuggets and Grizzlies or the Nuggets, Clippers, and Grizzlies?

a. Two Teams Tied b. More Than Two Teams Tied
(1) Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division. (1) Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division.
(2) Better winning percentage in games against each other. (2) Better winning percentage in all games among the tied teams.
(3) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if tied teams are in same division). (3) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if all tied teams are in the same division).
(4) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference. (4) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.
(5) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position). (5) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).
(6) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in opposite conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position). (6) Better net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents ("point differential").
(7) Better net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents ("point differential").

If the Nuggets and Clippers finish with a tie?

Advantage Clippers as, again, they are division winners.

If the Nuggets and Grizzlies finish with a tie?

The Nuggets would get the nod as neither team is a division winner and Denver has a 3-1 edge in head-to-head games.

If the Nuggets, Clippers, and Grizzlies finish tied?

3.) Clippers - division winners
4.) Nuggets - win the head-to-head over Grizzlies
5.) Grizzlies - poor bears.

What if the Nuggets and Thunder finish with the same record?

Then the Nuggets would win the Northwest division with a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over the Thunder.

What if Denver wins the Northwest and finishes tied with the Clippers?

Then the Nuggets would get the higher seed as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Clippers (2-1).

So, what if it goes: Spurs 63 wins, Nuggets 60 wins, Thunder 60 wins, Clippers 60 wins, and Grizzlies 60 wins?

1.) Spurs - division winner
2.) Nuggets - win Northwest with head-to-head tiebreaker over Thunder, get higher seed over Clips with head-to-head tiebreaker, get nod over Memphis as NW division winner
3.) Clippers - division winner
4.) 5.) Thunder or Grizzlies - whoever wins the tiebreaker game tonight (1-1)

There you have it my fellow Stiffs. Now check out the remaining schedules for the teams below. The Nuggets are just 3.5 games behind the Thunder now, so the Northwest division is still in play (George Karl's goal before the season was to be NW division champs).

I recommend printing the schedule below and filling in W's and L's accordingly - I always do ... (fun old school nerd stuff!).

Date Thunder Grizzlies Clippers Nuggets
Clinched #1 seed / Spurs #2 1 behind - can only finish No. 5 1 behind - earned either No. 3 or No. 4 <--Den leads & earned either No. 3 or No. 4
20-Mar at Grizzlies - L vs Thunder - W vs 76ers - W
21-Mar vs 76ers - W
22-Mar at Magic - W at Hornets - L
23-Mar vs Celtics - W vs Nets - W vs Kings - W
24-Mar vs Blazers - W
25-Mar at Wizards - L at Hornets - L
26-Mar at Mavericks - L
27-Mar vs Wizards - W at Knicks - L at Hornets - W at Spurs - L
28-Mar
29-Mar at Wolves - L vs Rockets - W at Spurs - L vs Nets - W
30-Mar at Bucks - W at Wolves - W at Rockets - L
31-Mar
1-Apr vs Spurs - W vs Pacers - L
2-Apr
3-Apr at Blazers -W vs Suns - W at Jazz - W
4-Apr vs Spurs - W vs Mavericks-W
5-Apr at Pacers - W at Lakers - L
6-Apr vs Rockets - W
7-Apr vs Knicks - L at Kings - W vs Lakers - W
8-Apr
9-Apr at Jazz - W vs Bobcats - W
10-Apr vs Wolves - W vs Spurs - W
11-Apr at Warriors-W
12-Apr at Blazers - W at Rockets - W at Hornets - W at Mavericks - L
13-Apr vs Clippers - L at Grizzlies - W
14-Apr vs Blazers -W
15-Apr vs Kings - W at Mavericks-W at Bucks - W
16-Apr vs Blazers
17-Apr vs Bucks vs Jazz at Kings vs Suns
Remaining Games 1 1 2 1
Home Games 1 1 1 1
Away Games 0 0 1 0
Back-to-Backs 0 0 1 0
vs Playoff hunt 1 0 0 0
vs Non Playoff 0 1 2 1

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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