LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida, USA
A Western Conference team will go into the playoffs with a negative record, something that had not happened in 23 years and would not cause much excitement under normal circumstances.
But this time, that team, whatever it is, is grabbing the spotlight in the NBA. And the fight to define it will last until the last day.
This Thursday, four teams – Portland, Memphis, Phoenix and San Antonio – will finally decide which will be the two clubs that will play an unusual qualifying series to determine the eighth and final guest to the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Portland and Memphis control their destinies, while Phoenix and San Antonio must win and receive outside help. The regular season ends on Friday, but the four hopefuls for that last passage in the West finish their activity and decide things on Thursday.
“We can finally see this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It is our next step. We know that we are not fully in control of our destiny, but we have placed ourselves in a good position. No one would have guessed that Phoenix would be in this position when this all started. “
The Suns are 7-0 at the restart of the season. They have been the best team in the “bubble” of the NBA.
But even if they finish 8-0, they won’t be assured of a place in the qualifying series. Phoenix meets Dallas at 4 pm (2000 GMT), the same time that Memphis and Milwaukee will meet.
The Bucks will lack their star Giannis Antetokonmpo, suspended for hitting Washington’s Moe Wagner with a header.
San Antonio plays Uah at 6:30 PM (2230 GMT), and Portland faces Brooklyn at 9 PM (0100 GMT).
The Spurs are looking to be the first team in NBA history to advance to the playoffs 23 times in a row. And they got some good news Wednesday, when Utah secured sixth place in the West.
This means that the Jazz have nothing to gain or lose.
Of course, the other three teams that are risking their lives will face rivals who also have no incentive – the Mavericks, the Bucks and the Nets – since they all have already defined their positions as seeded in the playoffs.
The qualifying series between eighth and ninth place after Thursday’s games will begin on Saturday. The ninth must win on Saturday and Sunday to advance. For the eighth, it is enough to win a game.
The award is a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in a first-round playoff series in the West.