EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Mess of the West: Suns’ tiebreakers come into focus with 7 games left

Mar 28, 2023, 12:52 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2023, 8:08 am

Clinging to the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns control their destiny when it comes to earning homecourt in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

At 40-35 with seven games to go, there are seven teams chasing Phoenix who are within 3.5 games of them in the NBA standings as of Wednesday morning.

All of the Suns’ remaining games are against Western Conference teams.

There are a few more locked tiebreakers in favor of the Suns since we last did this exercise two weeks ago. Phoenix has an official tiebreaker against the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, who in ninth and 12th in the standings could mathematically still catch the Suns. The Suns already held a tiebreaker on the No. 6 seed Golden State Warriors.

The season finale against the No. 5 seed Los Angeles Clippers on April 9 continues to loom as a big game considering L.A. is a half-game behind Phoenix.

The No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves visit Phoenix on Wednesday in what reportedly could be Kevin Durant’s home debut as a Sun. Minnesota has a strong chance to win a tiebreaker as it stands, but the Suns can lock in the tiebreaker to their advantage with a win.

Beyond tiebreakers, two trends are worth pointing out: The Pelicans have awoken at the right time with five wins in a row and sit in the No. 8 spot in the West, while the Dallas Mavericks are putting out negative vibes and due to a tiebreaker against the Thunder are out of the last play-in game. The Mavs have gone 3-7 over their last 10.

Here is a peek at the complex tiebreakers the Suns hold along with injury updates for the teams in chase of them.


Phoenix Suns tiebreaker tracker

No. 5 seed – Los Angeles Clippers (40-36)

Availability updates: Paul George’s scary knee injury has him expected to be sidelined for the regular season, but Shams Charania reports that a timeline of getting him back before the second round of the playoffs could be optimistic.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-1 with one game left (season finale on April 9)

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Not applicable unless the Suns make up a 5.0-game difference with the Kings (45-30) in just seven games to win the Pacific Division.

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: Phoenix at 9-5 in the Pacific Division could be caught by the 7-7 Clippers with each team having two intra-division games left.

Fourth tiebreaker – Conference won-lost percentage: The Suns at 25-20 (.556) have a lead on the Clippers’ 23-23 (.500) record. Phoenix has seven conference games left to Los Angeles’ six.


No. 6 seed – Golden State Warriors (40-37)

Availability updates: Forward Andrew Wiggins remains away from the team for personal reasons and there is no timeline for a return.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns — LOCKED

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 3-1 with no games left


No. 7 seed – Minnesota Timberwolves (39-37)

Availability updates: Karl-Anthony Towns returned last Wednesday from a calf injury, while Anthony Edwards has been back after an ankle tweak.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-1 with one game left (Wednesday)

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Not applicable unless the Suns make up a 5.0-game difference with the Kings (45-30) in just seven games to seal it.

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: Not applicable

Fourth tiebreaker – Conference won-lost percentage: The Suns at 25-20 (.556) trail the Timberwolves, who have gone 27-20 (.574) against Western Conference squads. Phoenix has seven games remaining against West teams, while Minnesota has five.


No. 8 seed – New Orleans Pelicans (38-37)

Availability updates: Forward Zion Williamson will be reevaluated around the end of the regular season with his hamstring strain but has been cleared to return to on-court activities as of last Sunday.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Pelicans

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-2 with no games left

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Likely not applicable

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: Not applicable

Fourth tiebreaker – Conference won-lost percentage: The Suns at 25-20 (.556) have a 0.5-game disadvantage to the Pelicans’ 26-20 (.565) record.


No. 9 seed – Los Angeles Lakers (37-38)

Availability updates: LeBron James returned from a month-long absence on Sunday following a foot injury that two doctors suggested required surgery.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns – LOCKED

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-1 with one game left (April 7)

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Likely not applicable

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: The Suns at 9-5 will finish with a better division record than the 5-9 Lakers, as each team only has two Pacific Division games remaining on their schedules.


No. 10 seed – Oklahoma City Thunder (37-39)

Availability updates: The Thunder’s best player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, will not play Tuesday because of a left ankle sprain. It’s the first game he’ll miss with the injury.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-1 with one game left (April 2)

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Likely not applicable

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: Not applicable

Fourth tiebreaker – Conference won-lost percentage: The Suns at 25-20 (.556) have a sizeable advantage over the 23-25 Thunder (.479) but mathematically could be caught.


No. 11 seed – Dallas Mavericks (37-39)

Availability updates: Luka Doncic is one technical foul away from earning a one-game suspension for his season total.

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-2 with no games left

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Likely not applicable

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: Not applicable

Fourth tiebreaker – Conference won-lost percentage: The Suns at 25-20 (.556) have a slight advantage over the Mavericks’ 27-23 (.540) conference record.


No. 12 seed – Utah Jazz (35-40)

Who has the tiebreaker right now? Suns – LOCKED

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-1 with no games left

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