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On Tuesday, the Denver Nuggets seemingly wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. While they didn't technically clinch with their seismic victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, they took care of by far their hardest remaining opponent and gave themselves a one-game lead in the standings over both the Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Surely the defending champs would take care of business in their last two games against the Spurs and Grizzlies... right?

Well... that's not how it played out on Friday. The Nuggets controlled most of their battle with Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs. They led by 13 entering the final frame. And then, after spending the entire season toying with opponents in the clutch, they were outscored 11-2 in the final three-and-a-half minutes to fall, 121-120. A Devonte' Graham runner with less than one second remaining gave the Spurs the win.

That threw the Western Conference into a state of turmoil. 

With 81 games down and just one remaining, the Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets all share identical 56-25 records. The NBA has never seen a three-way tie for a No. 1 seed. We very easily could have one this season. On Sunday, the Nuggets will play the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Timberwolves will host the Suns in Minneapolis, and the Thunder will host the Mavericks in Dallas. All three games start at the same time. If all three favorites either win or lose, we have a three-way tie for the No. 1 seed.

So now, we answer the million-dollar question: what happens in all of these possible tiebreaker scenarios? Well... there are a total of seven that we need to address. Let's break it down.

  • If the Thunder, Nuggets and Timberwolves all either win or lose on Sunday, the Thunder would be the No. 1 seed in the West, the Timberwolves would be the No. 2 seed and the Nuggets would be the No. 3 seed. The first tie that needs to be settled in any scenario is by division. All three of our teams here happen to share the Northwest Division. In a three-way divisional tie, the winner is determined through record against the other teams within the tie. The Thunder are 5-3 against the Wolves and Nuggets. The Wolves are 4-4 against the Nuggets and Thunder. The Nuggets are 3-5 against the Wolves and Thunder. From there, the individual tiebreaker between the Nuggets and Timberwolves is applied. That would be division record, which Minnesota wins with a 12-4 record compared to Denver's 10-6 record.
  • If the Timberwolves and Thunder both win, but the Nuggets lose, the Timberwolves would be the No. 1 seed, the Thunder would be the No. 2 seed and the Nuggets would be the No. 3 seed. This is because, without the three-way tiebreaker, the Thunder and Wolves would default to individual tiebreakers. They split their season-series 2-2, so the next tiebreaker down is division record. Here, we have yet another tie at 12-4 for both. Next, we go to conference record, which the Timberwolves finally win. Minnesota is 37-14 in the West. Oklahoma City is 36-15.
  • If the Timberwolves and Nuggets win, but the Thunder lose, the Timberwolves would be the No. 1 seed, the Nuggets would be the No. 2 seed and the Thunder would the No. 3 seed. Since Minnesota and Denver are tied head-to-head at 2-2, we would settle the tie between Minnesota and Denver with division record, which the Timberwolves win.
  • If the Nuggets and Thunder win, but the Timberwolves lose, then the Thunder would be the No. 1 seed, the Nuggets would be the No. 2 seed and the Wolves would be the No. 3 seed. This is because the Thunder hold a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over the Nuggets.

To determine the No. 2 seed in the event that any two of these teams lose and the third wins, simply apply the same tiebreaker covered in the scenarios above. If Denver wins and the other two teams lose, Minnesota would be No. 2 thanks to its conference record. If Oklahoma City wins and the other two lose, Minnesota would be the No. 2 seed thanks to its division record. If Minnesota wins and the other two lose, Oklahoma City would be the No. 2 seed thanks to its head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver.

Alright, so we've covered the tiebreaker scenarios. Anything else we need to know about these three games, individually? Yes! Absolutely! Here are the important notes on all three of these matchups on Sunday, which all tip off at 3:30 p.m. ET:

  • Dallas is locked into the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to hear that Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have already been ruled out of their matchup against the Thunder. Oklahoma City will be facing a team without its two best players.
  • Memphis had one of the longest injury reports in NBA history on Friday. The Grizzlies listed a total of 13 players as "out" ahead of their game Friday against the Lakers. They used only one player that played for them on opening night against Los Angeles: Jake LaRavia. But their skeleton crew still came within three points of toppling the Lakers in a 123-120 defeat, so don't expect them to lay down for the Nuggets on Sunday.
  • Phoenix is fighting for its playoff life right now. There are still scenarios in which the Suns can escape the Play-In Tournament, so expect them to do everything in their power to beat the Timberwolves on Sunday.

With nearly six months of basketball in the rearview mirror, we still haven't determined which team will have home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. Buckle up, folks, because Sunday is going to be one heck of a ride.