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NBA playoff push: How will the Western Conference shake out?

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The NBA season is winding down and there is still much to be decided in the Western Conference after the San Antonio Spurs were defeated by the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-91 on April 8. The Spurs loss coupled with Oklahoma City’s 107-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings 107-92, prevents San Antonio from clinching the top seed in the race for the playoffs – at least temporarily.

With exactly a week remaining in the NBA season, as of today (April 9), there is still much to be decided in the Western Conference. The only sure thing is that five teams – San Antonio , Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston and Portland – will be play in postseason though the seeds of those teams are still to be determined.

San Antonio lost for the second time in their past three games as Ricky Rubio scored 23 points and Gorgui Deng produced a double-double – 12 points and 15 – to propel the lottery bound Timberwolves past them. The Spurs are 3.5 games up on the Thunder for the top spot in the conference. San Antonio has four games remaining while Oklahoma City has five games left.

Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah also have been eliminated from playoff competition.

The rest of the article will look at the nine teams battling for the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference.

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs

1.       San Antonio Spurs (60-18):

San Antonio has lost two –of-its-last three since having their 19-game winning streak snapped. The Spurs currently sit in the top spot in the Western Conference, 3.5 games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

San Antonio has four games remaining, starting at the Dallas Mavericks on April 10, while Oklahoma City has five games. The Spurs have defeated the Mavericks in each of their three meetings this season, scoring at least 112 points in all three games.

San Antonio ranks seventh in the Association in scoring with 105.4 points and sixth in scoring defense by surrendering 97.2 points. The Spurs’ 8.2 margin of victory is the tops in the league. San Antonio is 31-8 at home and 29-10 in away games.

San Antonio will also host the Phoenix Suns (April 11) and are at the Houston Rockets (April 14) before hosting the Los Angeles Lakers (April 16) to close out the season. The Spurs are 2-1 against the Suns, 0-3 versus the Rockets and 3-0 versus the Lakers this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder Christian Petersen/ Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21)

Oklahoma City snapped its two game losing streak on Tuesday night with a 107-92 victory at Sacramento. Caron Butler made all six of his three-point attempts to finish with 23 points, and the Thunder began the fourth quarter on a 16-0 spurt. NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant saw his impressive streak of 41games scoring at least 25 points snapped, as he finished with 23 points.

The Thunder are currently in second place in the conference sitting 3.5 games behind the Spurs and 1.5 games ahead of third place Los Angeles Clippers with a key game at the Clippers on April 9. Oklahoma City is 24-14 in road games and 1-2 against the Clippers, which includes a 111-103 loss at the Staples Center on November 13.

Oklahoma City also has two games with the New Orleans Pelicans, and a game at Indiana before concluding the season versus Detroit on April 16. The Thunder has defeated each of these teams in their only matchup this season.

OKC is sixth in the league in scoring with 106.3 points a game and 11th in scoring defense allowing 99.7 points.

Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers Mpu Dinani/Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers

3. Los Angeles Clippers (55-23)

The Los Angeles Clippers have won five-of-its past six contests to improve to 7-3 in their last 10 games and stay within striking contest of the Thunder for the conference’s second playoff speed. The Clippers have a game in-hand and are 2.5 games up on the Houston Rockets for the third spot.

The Clippers, who have only lost six games at the Staples Center this season, have a pretty favorable schedule left as three-of-its last four games remaining are at home starting with the Thunder on April 9. Los Angeles, the league’s top scoring team with 107.8 points a game, has won two-of-its three matchups against OKC this season.

Los Angeles also will host Sacramento and Denver prior to concluding the season at Portland.
Blake Griffin, who will likely be responsible for trying to try to contain Kevin Durant of Thunder (April 9), leads the Clippers with 24.0 points a game. However, the Clips will likely be without Jamal Crawford (calf) and Danny Granger (hamstring) the rest of the regular season. Also, Matt Barnes is listed as day-to-day.

Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Houston Rockets

4. Houston Rockets (52-25)

The Houston Rockets, the league’s second highest scoring team in the league (107.6),  won their third straight game Tuesday night with a 145-130 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers as James Harden poured in 33 points and dished out 12 assists.

 Houston has five games remaining and could go as high as second or fall to fifth in the conference standings.  Though the most likely scenario is that the Rockets stay in the fourth slot as they currently sit 2.5 games behind the Clippers, 4.0 games behind the Thunder and 2.5 games ahead of Portland

Houston will travel to Denver on April 9 – the Rockets defeated the Nuggets 130-125 in overtime on April 6 – and then swing north to Minnesota (April 11) before returning home against New Orleans (April 12) and San Antonio (April 14). They conclude the season at New Orleans (April 16). Houston is 10-0 against their remaining foes.

Portland Trailblazers
Portland Trailblazers Ronald Martinez/ Getty Iamges

Portland Trailblazers

5.  Portland Trailblazers (50-28)

Now that Portland has a playoff spot secured, they can turn their attention to gaining home court advantage in their remaining four games.  The Trailblazers are currently 2.5 games behind the Rockets and will need to take advantage of their favorable home matchup against the struggling and banged up Sacramento Kings on April 9. Portland has won two-of-its-three meetings with Sacramento this season but the Kings (27-51) won the last meeting 12-119 on Jan. 7.

Portland, led by LaMarcus Aldridge (23.3 points, 11.2 rebounds), ranks fourth in the NBA with 106.6 points and rebounds with 46.3 a game but 21st in scoring defense (102.7). The Trailblazers are 28-10 at home and 22-18 in road games.

Portland, which has won five-of-its last six games, then goes to Utah (April 11) before hosting the Thunder and Clippers to conclude the season. The Trailblazers are 3-0 versus the Jazz, 1-2 versus the Warriors

Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images

Golden State Warriors

6.  Golden State Warriors (48-29)

The Golden State Warriors are currently in sixth place in the conference but there is turmoil. They sit 1.5 games behind Portland and one game up on seventh place Dallas and two games up on eighth place Phoenix. The Warriors are also 3.0 games clear of ninth-place Memphis with five games remaining while Dallas and Phoenix each have four games remaining.

The good news is that Golden State, which has just one 2014 playoff team remaining on their schedule, has won two straight games and is 7-3 in their last 10 contests. The Warriors will play Denver (twice – home and away)  at Los Angeles, at  Portland and home against Minnesota. The Warriors are 6-4 against their remaining foes and 22-16 on the road this season. Also, Andrew Bogut returned to action on April 6, after missing the team’s previous four games.

The bad news is that David Lee, already felled by a strained hamstring, has been diagnosed with nerve inflammation in his back. Lee has missed the Warriors last six games and there is no timetable for his return. Also, the Warriors have fired two assistant coaches and there are questions about head coach Mark Jackson returning.

Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks Mpu Dinani/Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks

7. Dallas Mavericks (48-31)

The Dallas Mavericks playoff hopes are very much in peril as they have a very tough remaining schedule though they won their fourth game in a row with a 95-83 victory over Utah on April 8. Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points against the Jazz to move pass Oscar Robertson and into the 10th spot on the all-time NBA scoring list. All four of Dallas’ victories have come on the road.

Dallas, which ranks 19th in the NBA in scoring defense (102.4), has held three of its past four opponents to less than 100 points.  The Mavericks are eighth in the NBA in scoring 104.9 points a contest.

Dallas, 25-14, play two of their three remaining games at home. The Mavericks will host the Spurs on April 10 and Phoenix on April 12. They conclude their season on April 16 at Memphis.

Dallas is 0-3 versus the Spurs, 1-1 versus the Suns and 3-0 versus the Grizzlies this season. Overall, the Mavericks are 19-25 against teams with a .500 or better record.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns Christian Petersen/ Getty Images

Phoenix Suns

7. Phoenix Suns (46-31)

The Phoenix Suns are the biggest surprise in the Western Conference as they were predicted to struggle this season after trading away Luis Scola and Caron Butler. The Suns are a 1.0 game ahead of Memphis for the final playoff spot and 1.0 game out of the seventh position and 2.0 games out of the sixth spot.

Phoenix has been hot lately going 8-2 in their last 10 games, which includes recent victories over Portland (109-93) and Oklahoma City (122-115). Gerald Green had monster games in both contests scoring 32 against the Trailblazers and 24 versus the Thunder.

Phoenix, 20-17 in road games, has five games remaining and four of those are road games. The Suns will travel to New Orleans (April 9), which is essentially a must win with games at Dallas (April 12) and San Antonio (April 11) looming. Phoenix has won the first three meetings with the Pelicans.

The Suns will host Memphis (April 14), following their Texas tip, and then conclude the season at Sacramento (April 16).

Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies

9. Memphis Grizzlies (45-32)

The Memphis Grizzlies  in the unenviable position of having to make up ground in the late stages of a playoff race, and that task is especially difficult with three of their remaining five opponents all playing for something in terms of the postseason.

Memphis will start the final stretch against the Miami Heat (53-24) on April 9, the good news for the Griz is at least they are home. Memphis has won 12 straight at the FedEx Forum but is just 5-5 in their last 10 contests.

 After the contest versus the Heat, the Grizzlies will host Philadelphia (April 11) and then travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers (April 13). Memphis concludes the season at Phoenix (April 14) and at home against Dallas (April 16).

Memphis, which ranks third in the league in scoring defense allowing 94.4 points per game, has given up at least 100 in each of its last four defeats. It is 5-20 when opponents reach the century mark.

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