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Thunder Officially Control Own Destiny For Play-In Spot

With four games left in the 2022-23 campaign, the Oklahoma City Thunder are well positioned to play beyond the regular season. They’re 38-40 entering Sunday with four games remaining.

At this point, it’s essentially a two-team race to earn the final spot in the play-in tournament. The No. 10 seed is a battle between the Thunder and Dallas Mavericks, although the Utah Jazz do have a small outside chance of getting in the mix. Dallas is 37-41, a full game back of Oklahoma City. The Thunder also own the tiebreaker over the Mavs, meaning they would have to finish the season with one more win than the Thunder to jump them in the standings. This is a significant advantage for the Thunder, which goes to show how important every single regular season contest ends up being.

What this means for OKC is that there’s a high probability that the team ends up earning a spot in the play-in. The path to clinching doesn’t require a miraculous close to the season, but rather just a couple of wins.

As such, the Thunder hold their own destiny.

With four games left, Oklahoma City automatically clinches a spot in the play-in with three or more wins. If the Thunder get two wins, that will also be enough to clinch a spot unless the Mavericks go undefeated the rest of the way. Just one win in the next four for OKC would mean Dallas still has to finish 3-1 to surpass the Thunder, which is a tough road for the Mavs. In a worst case scenario for Oklahoma City, going the rest of the season without a win still gives the team a decent shot at a play-in spot, as the Mavericks would have to win half of their games over the last four to jump the Thunder in that winless scenario.

Oklahoma City’s final four games are against teams that are either in the postseason picture or just outside of it. Furthermore, two of these games are on the road, where the Thunder have struggled this season.

  • April 2: Phoenix Suns
  • April 4: at Golden State Warriors
  • April 6: at Utah Jazz
  • April 9: Memphis Grizzlies

Dallas does have what could be considered one relatively easy win to close the season, but the road to get to that point will be difficult.

  • April 2: at Atlanta Hawks
  • April 5: Sacramento Kings
  • April 7: Chicago Bulls
  • April 9: San Antonio Spurs

As high as the Mavericks’ ceiling is Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, that duo hasn’t been able to produce wins. Dallas struggles to play defense, which has been detrimental over the past several weeks.

In short, Oklahoma City has quite a bit of breathing room regardless of how the Mavs finish. Three wins guarantees a spot, but two wins likely gets the Thunder in too, while one should also make them feel comfortable. Rather than worry about what Dallas does, the Thunder legitimately hold their own fate this season.

These final four games will make or break the Thunder’s postseason hopes, but either way it’s been a very successful season in which the youngest team in the NBA drastically exceeded expectations. The results of the next four games will either produce extremely valuable postseason minutes for the up and coming team, or higher lottery odds.

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