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Sizing up the West playoff race

PER Diem: Feb. 24, 2010

Updated: February 24, 2010, 1:48 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

It may very well be Changing of the Guard Night in San Antonio on Wednesday. The up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder come into town to take on the veteran Spurs, a team the Okies have imitated so well that they've now passed it in the Western Conference standings. The Thunder enter the game in the improbable position of owning a lead of 1½ games over the Spurs, and it's quite possible that Oklahoma City could finish with a top-four seed in the West while San Antonio misses the playoffs entirely.

Of course, the opposite could happen, too: San Antonio may reassert its position near the top of the Western Conference, and the Thunder's youth may come back to bite them. We're talking about small margins here: It would take a swing of only a couple of games for OKC to find itself in the familiar position of looking up at San Antonio.

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