EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns close to locking in homecourt to start playoffs. Here’s who they could play

Apr 3, 2023, 9:01 AM

Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) tries to get around Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton during the fi...

Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) tries to get around Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

A five-game winning streak has the Phoenix Suns feeling good about their playoff positioning considering all the ups and downs that 2022-23 brought.

The Suns (43-35) as of Monday sit in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 2.5-game lead on the No. 5 seed Los Angeles Clippers and No. 6 seed Golden State Warriors, who are each 41-38 with three games to go.

Holding a two-team tiebreaker over both those teams, one win by Phoenix or loss by either will give the Suns the advantage to finish above those two squads by straight-up record as well.

With four games to play, Phoenix sits four games back of the third-seeded Sacramento Kings, so the magic number is one Kings win or Suns loss to make it mathematically impossible for Phoenix to reach the No. 3 slot.

According to Basketball-Reference simulations, the Suns have a 97.5% shot of finishing in the No. 4 seed. There are sub-2% odds of landing in the fifth or sixth seeds and without homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Phoenix has already avoided a play-in game possibility.

So with that seeding nearly settled, who might the Suns play if they are the No. 4 seed or in the unlikely scenario of falling to No. 5? There are five teams who could match up with the Suns at this point as the fourth or fifth seed: the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers or, in a very unlikely scenario, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

We used the Basketball-Reference simulations — teams sitting players out could alter the accuracy of those simulation results — to paint a picture of who the Suns could see in the first round.

We’ll get into those teams’ tiebreakers with one another later this week, if need be.


Phoenix Suns playoff opponent and tiebreaker tracker

No. 5 seed – Los Angeles Clippers (41-38)

Chances of finishing as the No. 5 seed: 38.2%

Games left: vs. Lakers (Wednesday), vs. Trail Blazers (Saturday), at Suns (Sunday)

Who has the tiebreaker? Suns — LOCKED

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

Second tiebreaker – Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division: Not applicable unless the Suns catch the Kings

Third tiebreaker – Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division: Phoenix at 9-5 in the Pacific Division could be caught but not surpassed by the 7-7 Clippers with each team having two intra-division games left.

Fourth tiebreaker – Conference won-lost percentage: The Suns at 28-20 have a lead on the Clippers’ 24-25 record and can’t be caught because the Clippers only have three total games left.


No. 6 seed – Golden State Warriors (41-38)

Chances of finishing as the No. 5 seed: 17.6%

Games left: vs. Thunder (Tuesday), at Kings (Friday), at Trail Blazers (Sunday)

Who has the tiebreaker? Suns — LOCKED

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


No. 7 seed – Los Angeles Lakers (40-38)

Chances of finishing as the No. 5 seed: 16.9%

Games left: at Jazz (Tuesday), at Clippers (Wednesday), vs. Suns (Friday), vs. Jazz (Sunday)

Who has the tiebreaker? Suns – LOCKED

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 2-1 with one game 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: 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. 8 seed – New Orleans Pelicans (40-38)

Chances of finishing as the No. 5 seed: 24.5%

Games left: vs. Kings (Tuesday), vs. Grizzlies (Wednesday), vs. Knicks (Friday), at Timberwolves (Sunday)

Who has the tiebreaker? 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 28-20 (.583) have a tiny advantage on the Pelicans’ 28-21 (.571) record. All four of the Suns’ game left are against Western Conference teams, while New Orleans has three of its four versus the West.


No. 9 seed – Minnesota Timberwolves (39-40)

Chances of finishing as the No. 5 seed: 1.3%

Games left: at Nets (Tuesday), at Spurs (Saturday), vs. Pelicans (Sunday)

Who has the tiebreaker? Suns — LOCKED

First tiebreaker – Suns’ record vs. them: 3-1

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