Just under two weeks left in the NBA season and as usual, the playoff scene between the West and East couldn’t be any more different. Only two teams have to battle it out in the East – The Knicks and Bucks, while out West, it’s a tight race once again between the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and the Phoenix Suns.
Problem? Only three of these teams will make it through. Even better? Plenty of games between those five, with the champions, despite all of their problems, in the best situation to come out with a playoff ticket. The Suns look like a team with the least chance to make it through.
Dallas Mavericks – The NBA champions are currently sixth in the West, third in the Southwest division with a 33-26 record. Despite all of their problems, which go much deeper than just Lamar Odom, the Mavs, out of the five teams competing for the last two spots, have the best chances. What’s left? Away at Portland, Away against the Lakers, away against the Jazz, home to Houston and the Warriors before closing in Chicago against the Bulls.
Why? Because of their winning tie breaker situation with Houston, Utah, Phoenix and Denver. Two wins should be enough to put them in the postseason, where they shouldn’t be out of the first round. Luckily, a game against the shattered Blazers and the tanking Warriors should be good enough to get those wins.
Houston Rockets – With a 32-26 record, the Rockets are 7th out west, 0.5 games behind the Mavericks. What’s Left – Home against the Suns, away at Denver, home against Denver, at Dallas, at New Orleans and a home game against the Warriors before visiting the Heat and closing out at home against the Hornets. They lost the tiebreakers to Dallas and Utah, and their games against the Nuggets and Suns will decide, probably, if they make the playoffs or not.
Denver Nuggets – 8th in the West, 32-26, way behind the Thunder in the Northwest division. Is Oklahoma a Northwest team? I digress. Denver have five road games left on their schedule, maybe the toughest one for all the teams left in the race. At Lakers, home against the Rockets, at Houston, home against Clippers, at Phoenix, home vs Orlando, at Oklahoma and Minnesota. Probably need at least four wins in the remaining four games. Only Timberwolves looks like an easy game.
Utah Jazz – They’re 31-28, winning the tiebreakers against the Nuggets and Houston, losing vs Dallas and Phoenix. At least there are a few easy games in there, but the Jazz probably need at least four wins. They have the Hornets away, Grizzlies away, Mavs at home, Blazers away, Magic at home, Suns at home and Portland at home. If they’ll still be with a chance come the last two games, they’ll make it.
Phoenix Suns – At 30-28, winning the tiebreaker against only the Jazz, chances don’t look good. They need to play in Houston and San Antonio before home games against Portland, OKC, Clippers and Denver before visiting Utah and closing out at home against the Spurs. Only one game looks easy in there, and they probably need at least five wins.