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Dang, the NBA’s Western Conference playoff race is a hot mess


The NBA common season results in simply greater than 4 weeks. In different information, we nonetheless do not know how the Western Conference’s playoff image is going to shake out.

We know the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors can be the best two seeds, regardless that no longer through which order. The Portland Trail Blazers are most likely in, regardless that their agenda seems relatively tricky and the margins are small. But, together with the Blazers, 8 groups are combating for 6 spots. Those groups are all inside of three.five video games of one another.

A nasty week is the distinction between the No. three seed and being out of the playoffs totally on this surroundings. This is as tight amongst such a lot of groups as it’s been in years.

With that during thoughts, let’s reset the Western NBA playoff race because it stands. First, we care for the struggle for the No. 1 seed. Then we’ll do our highest to kind out the mess at the back of it.

First, for the ones with tiny consideration spans, the TL;DR model.

The upshot

Houston must win the No. 1 seed. The Nuggets have the worst shot of constructing the playoffs because of a road-heavy agenda. The ultimate spot looks as if it’s going to come right down to the Spurs and Clippers. The Jazz must make it. But everybody desires to keep away from the Nos. 7 and eight seeds.

Okay, now the (exceptionally) lengthy model.

The struggle for No. 1

The Rockets spread out a 2-game lead over the Warriors on Monday. Houston additionally has the tiebreaker after profitable the season sequence 2-1. So, necessarily, the Warriors want to end a sport forward of the Rockets to get that No. 1 seed. Right now, Golden State has 16 losses. Houston has 14. The Warriors want the Rockets to lose 3 video games greater than themselves the remainder of the manner.

Will the Rockets even lose 3 extra video games, regardless that?

Houston has 15 video games left, with six on the street and 9 at house. Four of the ones street video games are in opposition to groups in the West playoff race; the different two are in opposition to the feisty Lakers and the moribund Kings (that’s the season finale). The house video games function 4 groups out of the playoff chase. Given how tight the West playoff race has develop into, groups are going to be going all out each and every night time. So there is some prospective for defeat.

If Houston can sweep the non-playoff groups and move 7-2 in opposition to the others, they clinch No. 1 it doesn’t matter what Golden State does. For each and every sport above two that they lose, they want Golden State to lose one in every of their very own. So what number of video games can the Rockets somewhat be expecting the Warriors to lose?

Golden State has simply 14 video games left, lightly cut up between house and street. The away video games function 4 playoff or playoff-potential groups; the house video games even have 4 match-u.s.with playoff groups. The different six video games — starring groups like the Kings, Suns, and Hawks — must be easy victories. Those different 8 video games come with the Spurs in San Antonio, a pair in opposition to Indiana, a pair in opposition to Utah, the Bucks at house, the Thunder on the street, and the Pelicans in Oakland. Golden State may just very simply sweep the ones. But given endured inconsistency of effort and questions on how temporarily Stephen Curry will go back, let’s chalk up one loss in there. That’d give Houston some respiring room.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets
NBA: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Given their present benefit, you’d be expecting the Rockets to complete this out and declare the No. 1 seed. But each groups can be scoreboard looking at for a minimum of the subsequent couple of weeks.

The Blazers

The Blazers are the most up to date workforce in the West, using Damian Lillard’s late-season explosion to a 10-game win streak. Portland has a Four-game cushion on the groups in the Nos. nine and 10 spots. This contains 4 video games in the loss column. With near to 15 video games left for each and every workforce, that must be sufficient. FiveThirtyEight’s projections have the Blazers at 97 p.c to make the postseason.

But the agenda seems moderately tricky for Portland. Ten of the Blazers’ 14 closing video games come in opposition to playoff-potential groups. The best “nights off” are a pair with the disastrous Grizzlies, a consult with from the Pistons, and a sport in Dallas. That’s beautiful tricky. The Blazers’ ultimate 4 video games of the season learn like this: at Houston, at San Antonio, at Denver, vs. Utah. Portland has long gone 10-10 in opposition to the different seven groups in the West chase, regardless that the Blazers had been a lot better of overdue than early in the season. With seven video games in opposition to that group plus a pair in opposition to Houston closing, there’s quite a few alternative for losses.

The Pelicans

New Orleans is recently No. Four in the standings, with 11 of its 16 closing video games coming in opposition to playoff groups. The Pelicans have six extra on the street, and 5 of the ones come in opposition to playoff or playoff-chase squads. New Orleans has 5 most likely wins overall closing, and most likely must pluck no less than 5 extra out in their hats. Weekend losses to the Wizards and Jazz don’t encourage super self belief. Remember that six of the wins in the Pelicans’ contemporary 10-game streak got here in opposition to non-playoff groups: New Orleans received’t have a lot of the low finish to fatten up on the remainder of the manner. But the Pelicans are two up in the loss column over the groups in Nos. nine and 10. They’ve misplaced tiebreakers to Denver, Minnesota, and Utah, and feature the tiebreaker on Oklahoma City.

The Timberwolves

Minnesota has held on with out Jimmy Butler, and Sunday’s nationwide TV win over the Warriors used to be a massive morale spice up. It helped in the standings, too: the Timberwolves stayed knotted with the Thunder for No. five in the West with the victory. Minnesota has a huge tiebreaker edge, having received the benefit over L.A, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City, having cut up with Portland, and having a excellent likelihood to nonetheless acquire it over Denver and Utah. That’s particularly useful since Minnesota, with 29 losses, is best up one sport over the groups recently in Nos. nine and 10. With 14 video games left, Minnesota has seven on the street and 7 at house. Only 4 of the street video games and 4 of the house video games come in opposition to playoff-possible groups. That implies that the Timberwolves have six video games in opposition to dangerous groups they must win. Splitting the different 8 video games lightly would get Minnesota to 49-33, which must get the Wolves in with respiring room. Thanks to that simple agenda and the tiebreaker scenario, Minnesota is having a look excellent for the playoffs.

The Thunder

Oklahoma City’s file is just about similar to Minnesota. However, the Thunder have simply two video games left in opposition to non-playoff groups, fewer than the Wolves. That contains the subsequent sport — Atlanta on Tuesday. After that, Oklahoma City received’t face a workforce out of the playoff chase till April 11 in the season finale in opposition to Memphis. That 11-game run in between contains some winnable video games, together with a pair in opposition to Miami and demanding video games in opposition to L.A, Denver, and New Orleans. But it additionally contains battles with Toronto, Boston, Houston, and Golden State. (And you know Houston and Golden State need to beat up on the Thunder to assist knock them out of the playoff race.) During that 11-game run, we’re in reality going to determine what Oklahoma City is manufactured from.

The Spurs

FiveThirtyEight’s projections recently have San Antonio with a quite higher likelihood of having in than the Nuggets, and a quite decrease likelihood than the Clippers. But it’s shut. The Spurs have 15 video games left. San Antonio’s long gone Four-11 over its ultimate 15. If they do this the remainder of the manner, they aren’t making the playoffs. The excellent information is that the Spurs have 10 at house closing. The dangerous information is that 8 of them are in opposition to playoff-chase groups. Four of the 5 street video games are in opposition to groups in the chase or in the bracket, too. Yikesville. San Antonio has best received one in every of its previous 11 video games in opposition to playoff-chase groups (and that used to be Cleveland, who hasn’t precisely been inspiring). The Spurs want a entire turnaround over the subsequent month to avoid wasting their season. The excellent information is that apparently Kawhi Leonard is also returning to motion this week.

The Clippers

L.A. is the present proprietor of the No. 7 spot by way of share issues. The Clippers have 17 video games left, with a whopping 10 on the street. But L.A. has been an above-average street workforce this season. Eight of the ones street video games and 6 of the seven house video games are in opposition to playoff-chase groups. There’s a relatively brutal higher Midwest Four-game street shuttle in there, too. With simply 3 simple wins left on the desk, the agenda simply isn’t very type to the Clippers. They’ve additionally already misplaced tiebreakers to Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio, and wish a win to keep away from dropping the tiebreaker to New Orleans. Do the Clippers have any other surprise left in them?

The Nuggets

The Clippers’ saving grace could be Denver’s in a similar way brutal closing agenda. The strength-of-schedule isn’t so dangerous: if truth be told, the Nuggets’ subsequent 3 video games are in opposition to the Lakers, Pistons, and Grizzlies. That had higher be 3 wins. The drawback is that the Memphis sport begins a 7-game street shuttle, 5 of which can be in opposition to East playoff groups or the Thunder. Denver is a hideous 11-20 on the street this season. After that lengthy shuttle, the Nuggets nonetheless have the Clippers and Wolves clear of house. The Nuggets have simply 5 video games left at house, with 4 of the fighters in the playoff chase. Either Denver fixes it street issues, or it stands a cast likelihood of lacking the playoffs once more.

The Jazz

How is this for infuriating? On Jan. 22, Utah used to be in the No. 10 spot in the West. The Jazz have long gone 18-2 since that date. And as of Monday … the Jazz have been in the No. 10 spot in the West. Unbelievable. The Spurs’ loss on Monday did push Utah as much as No. eight, for now.

Utah is, as famous, loopy hot since Rudy Gobert got here again for actual. Nine of the workforce’s 15 video games closing are at house, the place Utah has been in reality robust this season. More than part of the Jazz’s closing video games — 8 of them — are in opposition to groups out of the playoff race, together with all of the subsequent 5. (We’re counting the Pistons as completed, as a result of … neatly, have you ever watched the Pistons in recent years?) Utah must keep in the best 8 going ahead. This is, equipped, one thing totally surprising doesn’t occur to the Jazz.

The subplot

Getting into the playoff bracket is one function for lots of of those groups. But there’s a massive incentive to get into the No. 6 seed or upper. Landing in Nos. 7 or eight approach a first-round sweep, in all chance. (You can believe few eventualities through which any of those groups peel a sport off of the Rockets or Warriors, however kind of 0 through which the sequence are in fact aggressive.) These groups in the giant chase all consider they are able to beat one any other. But to get to stand one in every of the different groups, they want to keep away from Houston and Golden State like the plague.

So don’t be expecting groups to ease up in the event that they line up a playoff spot if there’s a likelihood they are able to fall into or keep away from the backside two seeds.

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