The Western Conference playoffs are shaping up…oddly. Due to a quirk in the seeding system – where each division winner is given one of the top three seeds – the conference’s two best teams, San Antonio (55-16) and Dallas (54-18), will probably end up with the #1 and #4 seeds. This means that the two best teams in the West would meet in the second round of the playoffs instead of in the conference finals.
If the playoffs were to begin today, the bracket would look like this:
#1 San Antonio (55-16) vs. #8 Sacramento (36-36)
#4 Dallas (54-18) vs. #5 L.A. Clippers (41-29)
#2 Phoenix (47-23) vs. #7 L.A. Lakers (38-34)
#3 Denver (40-32) vs. #6 Memphis (41-31)
Imagine you’re the Clippers and your reward for finishing fifth in the conference is a first round date with Dallas and a potential second round matchup with San Antonio. The Clippers would be much better off losing a couple of games and finishing sixth, getting a first round matchup with Denver, the worst of the three division winners, before a potential second round series with Phoenix, a team that is both banged-up and struggling.
Whenever there is incentive to lose on purpose, there’s a problem, and the NBA needs to fix this one.