The playoffs start in about nine days. We take a look at the Western Conference (the East was looked at earlier). This playoff picture may be completely different tonight so I had match-ups in mind. It's a dogfight in all the playoff spots.
1. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (45-16)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (5 games, 3 home, 2 road) v LAL, v CLE, v POR, @ PHX, @ GS
We know they're nearly here every year but this season, they're more powered on offense instead of defense. Unless they somehow turn it up on the defensive department. I'm sure they'd love to face Memphis and the Clippers and avoid the Lakers and the Thunder.
2. OKLAHOMA CITY (45-17)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 2 h, 2 r) @ SAC, @ LAL, v SAC, v DEN
They seem to be the pick by a lot of people but was their experience from last year enough? Is their talent enough? Still, if they run into the Clippers, they may have a hard time breaking through. And the Grizzlies would be a tough out, too, even though they have gotten the better of them this year.
3. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (40-23)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (3 games, 1 h, 2 r) @ SA, v OKC, @ SAC
This team has so much potential but under this current umbrella, I don't know how good they are. This ain't Phil Jackson's Lakers, you know. They seem BUILT for the playoffs but are guys like Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions ready to be featured. The Thunder and the Grizzlies are the ones they'd like to avoid.
4. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (39-23)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 1 h, 3 r) @ PHX, v NO, @ ATL, @ NY
It's a bit hard to believe in them. Not because they're the Clippers but because they are the least experienced with the most questionable coaching and their defense. It shows they can turn it up at times, though, but can they turn it up on a consistent basis? Somehow, they seem to do well against the Thunder and the Grizzlies. These match-ups are wacky.
5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (37-25)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 3 h, 1 r) @ CHA, v POR, v CLE, v ORL
They're just getting back Zach Randolph. So, really, this Memphis team has become the wild card of the bunch. They haven't done as well against the Spurs and their current first-round match-up, the Clippers. The bears also had trouble with the Thunder this season but you'd better believe that goes out the window if they face each other in a series. With the right mix of hunger, youth, and physicality, they are the most interesting team to watch in the West.
6. DALLAS MAVERICKS (35-28)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (3 games, 1 h, 2 r) v GS, @ CHI, @ ATL
I'm sure they'd like to avoid the Lakers... but they are the world champions so you just can't count them out. What if they catch fire in the playoffs? Of course, this team just isn't as talented as last year's. That doesn't mean we should look past them, though.
7. DENVER NUGGETS (34-28)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 1 h, 3 r) @ PHX, v ORL, @ OKC, @ MIN
You know they'll get up for the big games. They'll make it fun for a while, too (best offense in the league). But nothing suggests to me that they'll get past either the Spurs or the Thunder. However, if they go to #6, they could make it interesting against the Lakers...
8. UTAH JAZZ (33-30)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (3 games, 3 h) v ORL, v PHX, v POR
The Jazz's has some depth and they'll make it interesting against whoever's the #1 seed. Making it would be good for them. They can use the experience.
9. PHOENIX SUNS (32-30)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 3 h, 1 r) v LAC, v DEN, @ UTA, v SA
If the Suns make it, I expect Steve Nash to go supernova in some of those games. And, yes, I still expect him to do it at 38 years old.
10. HOUSTON ROCKETS (32-30)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 2 h, 2 r) @ NO, v GS, @ MIA, v NO
Another team that could make it interesting against the top dogs but they're on such a freefall that it's so hard to believe they'll do any damage if they do make it. Currently on a five-game funk.
11. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (28-35)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (3 games, 3 r) @ MEM, @ SA, @ UTA
Just when they thought they were something at the start, they started to suck. So they decided to blow the whole thing up and tank... then they sucked at tanking. At least, they're mathematically eliminated now. They'll be glad when the season is over.
12. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (25-38)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (3 games, 2 h, 1 r) @ DET, v GS, v DEN
13. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (22-39)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (5 games, 2 h, 3 r) @ DAL, @ HOU, @ MIN, v NO, v SA
So much for that promise by Mark Jackson.
14. SACRAMENTO KINGS (20-42)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 2 h, 2 r) v OKC, @ CHA, @ OKC, v LAL
Sad, sad situation that their record just seems secondary.
15. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (19-43)
REMAINING SCHEDULE: (4 games, 1 h, 3 r) v HOU, @ LAC, @ GS, @ HOU
At least, they were bought by Saints owner, Tom Benson. With plans to rebrand, the franchise has never been more stable.
PHOTO CREDIT: 1) Noah Graham/Getty Images. 2) Glenn James/Getty Images. 3) Pat Sullivan/AP.
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