Only in the West can you have five teams fighting for the second seed, two teams threatening to supplant the losers of those battles, and two .500 or better teams missing out on all the fun.
Lets take a look at the final stretch in the Western Conference.
Current Western Conference Standings
1. Los Angeles (55 – 22)
2. Dallas (50 – 27) 5 GB
3. Denver (50 – 27) 5 GB
4. Utah (50 – 27) 5 GB
5. Phoenix (50 – 27) 5 GB
6. Oklahoma City ( 48 – 28) 6.5 GB
7. San Antonio (47 – 29) 7.5 GB
8. Portland (47 – 30) 8 GB
LAL has won the West already so we can kill those “games back” from each team to LA.
2. Dallas (50 – 27)
3. Denver (50 – 27)
4. Utah (50 – 27)
5. Phoenix (50 – 27)
6. Oklahoma City ( 48 – 28) 1.5 GB
7. San Antonio (47 – 29) 2.5 GB
8. Portland (47 – 30) 3 GB
DAL Sched: MEM, @POR, @SAC, @LAC, SAS
Dallas only has two teams with losing records in their final stretch. Those two are at later portion of three games in four night though. Trap game(s) perhaps? They have lost two in a row and are 5-5 in their last ten.
DEN Sched: @OKC, LAL, SAS, MEM, @ PHX
Denver is in a free fall. Their coach is going through cancer treatment (I wish him well) and players are getting snippy with one another. They have won two in a row after going 1-5 since 3/20. Their weakest opponent left is MEM who they are 2-1 against this season. They have two back-to-backs and five games in seven nights. Both back-to-backs are split home/away. Very tough.
UTH Sched: OKC, @HOU, @NO, @GS, PHX
Utah’s schedule is similar to Denver’s. They have two split back-to-backs against strong competition (minus GS). They are 7-3 in their last ten and have a great chance to grab the number two seed. This should be enough to convince Pop to get us something better than seven seed. Or you would think anyways...
PHX Sched: SAS, @OKC, HOU, DEN, @UTH
Phoenix is one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. However, no opponent in Phoenix’s remaining schedule has a sub .500 record. Their season record against these teams (in the above order): 1-1, 1-1, 3-0, 2-1, and 1-2. They finish the season with a split back-to-back. They probably have the best chance to secure the second seed.
OKC Sched: @UTH, DEN, PHX, @GS, @POR, MEM
Six games in nine nights and two back-to-backs. Good thing for them the team is full of young players. They are 7-3 in their last ten and Durant has averaged 30 pts per game during that stretch. They may lose against UTH and PHX but they can easily secure wins from the other four. My hopes of seeing them against LAL or UTH in the first round are getting crushed.
SAS Sched: @SAC, @ PHX, MEM, @DEN, MIN, @DAL
So the good guys are without Hill and Parker for a crucial back-to-back (and first half of four games in five nights). Manu has been nothing short of God-like over the last month but SAS needs him to go beyond that for a week or so. His durability scares the hell out of most of us. Half of the remaining games are against opponents 2.5 spots ahead of the Spurs and two of those teams (DAL and DEN) are struggling. The Spurs can’t afford to drop easy wins against SAC and MIN. Memphis is not a push over. So even well as the Spurs have been playing this past 4-5 weeks, this will be a tough stretch to grab three or more wins.
POR Sched: @LAC, DAL, @LAL, OKC, GS
Portland is guaranteed at least the eight seed and kudos to them. They are 8-2 in their last ten but most of that was against teams eying the lottery. They did grab two wins from DAL and OKC, two teams they will face again in the next week. They need to finish 4-1/5-0 to get out of playing LAL in first round and those scenarios have a somewhat strong possibility. But considering they own the regular season series against the Spurs... they may not even need that if the Spurs stumble.
How do you think the last two weeks will play out?