EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Phoenix Suns win Pacific Division, clinch top-2 seed after Clippers loss
May 14, 2021, 9:09 PM | Updated: May 15, 2021, 10:05 am
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Suns (49-21) will be either the first or second seed in the Western Conference after the Los Angeles Clippers’ loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
This also means the Suns have won the Pacific Division for the first time since 2007. It is the franchise’s seventh time doing so, tying the Golden State Warriors for the second-most division titles. The Los Angeles Lakers are first with 24.
So, are you staring at the standings and remaining two days of the regular season trying to figure out what is left to be determined? Of course you are! Let’s run through it:
Clippers gunning for 4th
The Clippers are now sitting in fourth place after resting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George while also having Reggie Jackson and Patrick Beverley out to let some injuries heal up. The benefit for them losing is a more favorable matchup as the fourth seed, doing their best to avoid the Los Angeles Lakers (40-30), who are now set to finish the regular season either sixth or seventh after the Dallas Mavericks’ (42-29) win on Friday.
The Clippers are now in fourth because of a win for the Denver Nuggets on Friday. That has both teams tied at 47-24 and the Nuggets hold the tiebreaker. What that means is that the Clippers will need to lose again to ensure they stay in fourth, and on Sunday they play the putrid Oklahoma City Thunder (21-50), who also have a reason to lose because of ping pong balls.
Lakers 6th or 7th
To go back to the Lakers, they are competing with the Portland Trail Blazers (41-30) now for either the sixth or seventh position, and to bring it full circle, the Blazers play the Nuggets on Sunday.
If Portland wins against Denver, the Lakers are seventh no matter what. If Portland loses, the Lakers can win both of their games over the weekend to get the sixth seed and avoid the play-in. The question, of course, is if the Lakers even feel threatened by the play-in and would rather take that route for the matchups they’d draw as the seventh seed.
And for one more to make your head spin even more, if the Blazers win and Mavericks lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves (22-48) on Sunday, it would be Portland as the fifth seed and Dallas sixth.
Suns’ chances at No. 1
The Utah Jazz (51-20) also won Friday to keep their distance at the No. 1 spot. When it comes to the Suns, that means one more Suns loss in their two games left or the Jazz winning their season finale on Sunday locks in Utah first and Phoenix second. The Jazz play on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings (31-40), who have been eliminated from playoff contention. For the Suns, it’s a back-to-back in San Antonio versus the Spurs (33-37), who have clinched 10th in the West.
Warriors-Grizzlies finale for 8th
Lastly, the final game of the regular season for the Golden State Warriors (38-33) and Memphis Grizzlies (38-33) is against each other on Sunday for the eighth seed. The loser will be the ninth seed and face the more difficult road through the play-in.