Breaking down Western Conference playoff chase with two weeks left in season
There are just more than two weeks left in the NBA regular season — 16 days, if you want to be specific — and the playoff races are taking shape. But there is still a lot in flux.
Here we take a look at the West, where the top seed is set, but the middle of the bracket could go a host of ways. Pretty soon we might start to see jockeying as teams try to line up the opponent they most want — meaning, think they can beat — in the first round.
No. 1 seed: The Golden State Warriors have officially secured up the top spot. They will have home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
No. 2-3 seeds: A few weeks back this looked like a lock for the Memphis Grizzlies. However, they have stumbled of late including three losses in a row to good teams — Cleveland, Golden State and San Antonio — while Houston just kept right on winning. The result is Sunday Houston vaulted into the second seed. The good news for Grizzlies fans is that their schedule gets softer while the Rockets have both Dallas and Oklahoma City on the road this week. These two teams most likely end up two and three, although the red hot Clippers could slide into the mix.
No. 4-6 seeds: Just 1.5 games separate the Clippers, Trail Blazers and Spurs for the middle of the pack. (Technically Portland is the four seed because they lead the Northwest division but if they played the Clippers in the first round Los Angeles would still have home court with the better record, at least as of today.) The Clippers have won seven in a row, the Spurs three in a row and 7-of-10. The big game coming up here is Wednesday when the Clippers travel to Portland — with LA on the second night of a back-to-back having just played Golden State. These three seeds could still shake out in any order.
No. 7 seed: Dallas is fairly locked in here, 2.5 back of the suddenly hot Spurs, three games up on Oklahoma City below them. That said, Dallas has lost four-of-five and this week face the Thunder, Rockets and Warriors. If they lose all three of those and Russell Westbrook keeps doing his thing, it could get very interesting the last week of the season.
No. 8 seed: Phoenix had to beat Oklahoma City on Sunday to have a chance and they came out playing like the desperate team — Markieff Morris had 16 points in the first quarter and Phoenix was up 20 in the second quarter. Then it all came apart for the Suns and together for the Thunder. OKC stormed back to win, and that pretty much is the stake through the heart of the Suns’ playoff hopes, they are four back now with eight to play. New Orleans is 2.5 back of the Thunder, but they are going to need some help to make up that ground. OKC is going to get in but with all their injuries they are no match for Golden State. (It is possible if Dallas keeps falling hard OKC could make up the three games and get to the seven seed, but don’t bet on it.