Four left in the race, only one of them comes out. While things are set and done in the East except for a few positions, the final eighth spot for the postseason in the Western Conference is up for grabs, as the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and even the Portland Trail Blazers (yes, still) are fighting for the final playoff ticket left to hand out.

While the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors have yet to clinch their spots like the other five teams above them, it’s hard to believe that with 4.5 and 3.5 games above the Lakers (8th), they’ll actually be able to mess up so badly in the end and find themselves out of the postseason. This is a four-horse race, with the Blazers close to being eliminated.

Western Conference
1x – San Antonio5317.75730-423-1312-330-13104.396.4+7.9Lost 17-3
2x – Oklahoma City5219.7321 ½31-521-148-534-12106.297.0+9.2Won 27-3
3x – Denver4923.681532-317-209-532-12105.7101.2+4.5Lost 19-1
4x – LA Clippers4823.6765 ½28-820-158-527-15100.894.4+6.4Lost 15-5
5x – Memphis4723.671628-819-156-626-1693.589.7+3.8Lost 16-4
6Golden State4131.5691324-1017-218-522-20100.6100.1+0.4Won 26-4
7Houston3931.5571425-1014-216-819-23106.4102.7+3.7Won 37-3
8LA Lakers3635.50717 ½23-1213-236-719-23102.1101.2+0.9Lost 36-4
Utah3536.49318 ½25-910-275-519-2398.098.7-0.7Won 13-7
Dallas3536.49318 ½21-1414-225-819-24101.8102.3-0.5Won 37-3
Portland3337.4712022-1111-266-618-2398.299.5-1.4Lost 15-5
Minnesota2544.36227 ½16-179-273-1014-2995.097.6-2.6Won 14-6
New Orleans2546.35228 ½15-2110-255-914-2994.197.4-3.3Won 34-6
Sacramento2546.35228 ½19-166-305-711-3099.7104.8-5.1Lost 24-6
Phoenix2348.32430 ½16-207-285-815-2794.4100.6-6.3Lost 32-8

The Lakers haven’t missed a postseason since the 2004-2005 season, and have been out of the playoffs only twice in the last 27 season. For the Dallas Mavericks, it’s a 12-year streak that might end if they miss the postseason for the first time since Dirk Nowitzki became a meaningful player for the team. For Utah, who were looking like a sure thing before the recent slide, it might be the second time in three years they miss out on NBA playoffs. For the Blazers, it could be their second consecutive miss, not making a playoff game without Brandon Roy on the team since 2003.

Los Angeles Lakers (8th)

If the Lakers miss out on the playoffs despite the megalomaniac project which included adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant without actually stopping to think how it’ll all work out, there will be about a million reasons as to why it didn’t happen. Lately, it’s been the defense – simple transition defense, with Kobe Bryant, scoring and not thinking about passing once again, being atrocious on the end where hustle counts more than other things.

The Lakers looked to be on the right direction, winning six of seven since March 6; but then Bryant got injured, and the “inspiration” stopped working. The Lakers completely dissed and underestimated the Suns and the Wizards, and have a new snowball of disaster growing with every growing second, the only think keeping them above water is Utah’s slide (maybe stopped) and the gap they have over the Mavs and the Blazers. While their recent form and coaching has been abysmal, not to mention being 0-5 with their projected early-season starters in the opening lineup, they’re still at 8th, hoping that Metta World Peace’s injury will have some sort of positive effect by any chance.

Dallas Mavericks

If the Dallas Mavericks somehow do make the postseason in a season that looked completely destroyed about a month or two ago, it’ll be one of the more impressive feats Rick Carlisle has achieved in his career, which includes taking the Mavs to the NBA championship. Dirk Nowitzki isn’t the Nowitzki of old, but he’s got plenty of basketball and clutch ability left, helping the Maves win 15 of their last 23 games, putting them at 35-36, only 0.5 games behind the Lakers, with a visit to the Staples Center on April 2.

It’s a rough finish for Dallas – Denver & Portland on the road, Denver at home and Memphis at home after playing in LA against the Lakers. If they can win at least 7 of their remaining 11 games, it’s a fair  assesment to make that they should be in the playoffs.

Utah Jazz

Out of the three teams closest to the final spot, the Jazz seem to be in the worst position. The Lakers might have lost four in a row, but Utah don’t have the talent or the superstar that can, against the current, win games for them. The Jazz might need to start thinking about giving Favors some more time on the floor or spend more minutes in a 3-big lineup, which is pretty much their only advantage against other teams. They’ve lost 12 of their last 16 games, dropping them to 9th (tied) in the race, but 7 of the remaining 11 games are at home, which includes the Blazers , Nuggets and Thunder, while they finish the season with a two game road trip to New Orleans and Memphis. Too bad of a momentum, not good enough of a team – hard to see the Jazz being the ones that make it.

Portland Trail Blazers

It’s going to take a miracle for the Blazers, 33-37, to make it in. They have a rough road till the end: Brooklyn, Utah, at Golden State, at Utah, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, Lakers, Thunder, at Denver, at Clippers, Warriors. Out of the 12 games left, they’re going to need and win at least 9, which seems impossible looking at their track record this season, and the fact that they have no bench, and no one to cover for Lillard and Aldridge when they’re not making their shots, while Nicolas Batum is playing injured and is becoming more and more of a non-factor on offense.