While there is only one more place up for grabs in the NBA playoffs that hasn’t been decided yet, the positional battles in the East and West are alive and well, with the games between the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks, the Denver Nuggets vs the Portland Trail Blazers, the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers being the ones that bare extreme significance heading into the final nights of the season.
While the Knicks’ 13-game winning streak has almost settled the beef with the Indiana Pacers for the second spot in the East, which means a difference between playing the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls, there’s still a chance for Indiana to make it. They’re three games behind the Knicks, and a win at Madison Square Garden will mean they take the season series, and have a chance to finish second in the East if they win out the rest of the season while the Knicks lose all of their remaining games. While the Pacers have an impressive 125-91 win from February 20 to lean on, the home team has won the game in their three encounters this season.
The Los Angeles Clippers beating the Memphis Grizzlies brought it back to a three horse race in the Western conference for the third spot, which means playing either the Golden State Warriors instead of the Clippers or Grizzlies. As of now, the Nuggets are in the lead with 0.5 games above their chasing rivals. Playing the Portland Trail Blazers is something any team would like these days, even if the Nuggets are missing Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson, as the Blazers have lost 10 games in a row.
The Houston Rockets are 7th in the West, 0.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors. A win over Sacramento, and they move up to sixth, having the series advantage this season. While there has been some sort of fall in their form recently, partially due to Kevin McHale not really knowing what to do with Harden and Lin, beating the Kings is something you should expect from a team serious about their playoff chances.
Finally, we have the Los Angeles Lakers, sans Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, with a rotation that’s probably down to 7 men not including the D-Leaguers, playing the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are still in the race for the top spot in the West, but for some reason, it feels like they’re slightly giving up on it, not really believing in the Thunder dropping any more games. The Lakers? They probably have to win out to make sure the Utah Jazz don’t find a way to go past them.