With only five (six for some teams) games left in the NBA regular season, most teams know their fate and playoff bound teams can begin preparing for the postseason. The Eastern Conference playoff teams are set, with Milwaukee securing their spot last night. In the Western Conference three spots are still open, with five teams still in contention for those three spots, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be an exciting finish to the regular season out West.
Golden State Warriors
Earlier in the season you wouldn’t have thought that the Warriors would still have to secure their spot in the postseason at this point, as Golden State were flying high towards the top of the conference standings and looking set for home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But, after a poor mid-season stretch they’ve put themselves in a position where they still have to fight for their spot. Luckily Stephen Curry caught fire and helped stablilised the team, leading to a 4 1/2 game lead over the 9th spot in the conference standings. It would take a miracle for the Warriors to not make the playoffs.
The Rockets are in a similar situation to the Warriors, although their position isn’t as certain as they only possess a 3 game lead over the Utah Jazz who currently sit just outside the playoff places in 9th place. With a 7-3 record in their last ten games, it would take a serious dip in form, and good results for the teams below them to put the Rockets in a position where their fate isn’t in their own hands.
Los Angeles Lakers
When the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, people assumed that they’d be contending with the NBA’s elite come this time of the season, but that has proved far from the case. With Dwight Howard struggling, and Steve Nash showing his age, the Lakers have been inconsistent despite Kobe Bryant having an excellent season on offense. The Lakers situation is in their own hands, but one bad result could change that completely. The Utah Jazz are breathing down their neck, only 1/2 game back and with a simpler schedule on their plate in their remaining games.
The Jazz are in similar form to the Lakers, and have a real shot at snatching the 8th spot from their grasp. Despite their schedule presenting some challenges, you have to favour their schedule to the Lakers. The Lakers have one more game to play than the Jazz, which could be looked at as both a positive and a negative. If the Lakers lose that games both teams will share the same record, whereas if the Lakers win that game it gives them a bigger advantage heading into the final five games of the season. This race will go down to the wire.
I’m not going to focus too much on the Mavericks, as they are 3 games back and looking like they’re pretty much out of the race for the postseason. If they lose their game in hand on the Jazz then they’ve got no chance of catching up, but similar to the Lakers situation, if they win then they’re only 2 games behind and could steal the final spot if they win all their remaining games. Don’t rule Dallas out just yet.