NBA Playoff Picture Coming Into Focus In The West

Regular Season Coming To And End Clarity came to the NBA Western Conference playoff picture on Monday night, while also setting up an interesting finale on Wednesday, the last...

Regular Season Coming To And End

Clarity came to the NBA Western Conference playoff picture on Monday night, while also setting up an interesting finale on Wednesday, the last day of the regular season.

The Eastern Conference’s eight qualifiers have long been set, though how they will ultimately stack up remains an open question.

Here’s what’s new in the West:
• The Oklahoma City Thunder outscored the Miami Heat 39-12 in the fourth quarter after being outscored 23-5 in the first and won 115-93 to clinch a playoff berth.
• The San Antonio Spurs will make their 21st consecutive playoff appearance, thanks to a 98-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
•The New Orleans Pelicans make a return to the postseason after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 113-100.

On Wednesday night, the winner of the Denver Nuggets-Minnesota Timberwolves will claim the West’s final spot. The T’wolves are close to ending the NBA’s longest playoff drought, having been absent since the 2004 season. The Nuggets, meanwhile, last reached the postseason in 2013.

A few notes from the East: The Cleveland Cavaliers, in a season of turmoil, won their 50th game (the Kyrie Irving trade, the Isaiah Thomas trade, the time off taken by coach Tyronn Lue) and the Central Division title … The Heat slipped to the seventh playoff spot and are just a half-game ahead of the eighth-place Washington Wizards. The seventh-place team will match up in the playoffs with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics, while the No. 8 seed will no doubt be eliminated by the No. 1 Toronto Raptors.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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