With the NBA eastern conference showing about as much depth as the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback options last season, it has left the entire NBA looking at the finish to the west. It's set to be an intriguing final to the season, with teams not only fighting to make the playoffs, but also to claim a home field advantage. Here are 3 things that i noticed regarding the west as the regular season is beginning to come to a close.
Denver steals third
It didn't take an impressive win streak for me to understand that Denver were going to head into the playoffs as legitimate contenders. They're a good, fast paced team who can take care of teams like Oklahoma City, which has been evident throughout the regular season.
Unfortunately Denver's streak came to an end against the Hornets just a few days ago, but their point was made, and it has also put them in a position to take a home court advantage into the finals. Denver has a relatively easy schedule heading into the playoffs, however, they have to face the Spurs twice, both home and away, which proves to be their greatest challenge by a long way. But despite these two games, I feel with the schedule they have, Denver has third spot in their pocket if they can continue to play with the same form that had kept them hot in the win streak, which could cement a home court advantage.
Speaking of home, Denver are 32-3 at the Pepsi Center, tied with the best home record in the league with the Miami Heat. Best of luck to the team that has to play Denver at Denver.
Game that could define the season: San Antonio (home).
4th and 5th could be decided by a single game
The Memphis Grizzles and Los Angeles Clippers. I can't pick it. I have done numerous projections which has seen both teams swapping spots nearly every time, leaving me scratching my head when trying to evaluate who could be playing who with the home court advantage. But there is one thing that is for sure. When the Clippers head on the road to take on Memphis, it isn't going to be anything short of any early playoff game.
Memphis have a marginally tougher schedule in my eyes, but this doesn't mean I'm liking the Clippers. Both teams have currently lost to a team they should have beaten (Memphis with the wizards, and the Clippers with Dallas), so another upset to either side down the stretch would not come as a huge shock.
It's tough to pick, but I'm taking Lob City down the stretch. Memphis have substituted well for Rudy Gay after his departure to Toronto, but at some point it is going to hurt them, leaving the Clippers to sneak further ahead in the dying stages of the season. But hey, I could be wrong, that definitely wouldn't be a first. But right now, Clippers at Memphis is the game I can't wait to see. Got to love that playoff atmosphere.
Game(s) that could define the season: Pacers, @ Rockets, @ Memphis.
Game(s) that could define the season: @ Rockets, Clippers
Lakers hold on for eight spot
Kobe is mad at his supporting cast. Dwight is mad at David Lee. The fans are mad at their team. Everybody is mad. I can see this going one of two ways; 1, The Lakers grow up, take the court with some energy and work as a team to win some games, or 2, They don't even bother.
Rule out the second option if you want, but I have seen enough of the Lakers this year to know that it is a genuine chance. However, of the two, I have them pulling their season back together. Dallas and Utah (I think it's a bit late for Portland) can smell the playoffs. They are right there. One bad slip up in a game that Lakers could have won but lost, could see them out of the playoff picture.
The Lakers need to play perfect. They have a bit of a rough schedule heading towards the playoffs, and it is very unlikely they will win every game (unlike the Heat), but they could do just enough to pull themselves over the line. Dallas is their main competition, they are a good team, don't be fooled. I know I was. Nowitzki is back firing, Bernard James is playing well since he has been signed, and the Mavericks are charging late. Utah however are playing bad. I don't see them as a chance anymore unless something big changes soon. But hey, it's the NBA. It's where amazing happens.
Dallas and the Lakers do in fact play each other late down the stretch, similar to Memphis and the Clippers. But the unpredictability of the Lakers makes this game not as defining. If the Lakers can't find consistency late, then the Mavericks will stroll right into the playoffs. It's all in the Lakers hands, it's just up to how much they want it.
Game that could define the season: Dallas, Warriors, Rockets
I'd like to just mention my friend Dylan Cott who helped me a fair bit with discussion regarding the placing of the teams.