With roughly 13 games remaining on the NBA schedule, not much has been decided in the Western Conference standings. The Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets are tied for first with a (47-22) record. They hold a 3.5 game lead over the Houston Rockets (44-26). Both teams earned their playoff spot earlier in the week. However, it’s fair to wonder what is more important- the higher seed or the better playoff matchups?
Keep in mind, neither team has been great over the last 10 games. Despite a number of big wins, the Warriors are only (5-5) over the last 10 contests. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have gained a little ground by going (6-4) in the same time frame. They are fresh off of a huge win over the Boston Celtics. Although they maintain a healthy lead with so few games remaining, the conference leaders have been unable to pull away from the rest of the conference.
As it was stated a moment ago, the Rockets are in third place and only 3.5 games out of the No. 1 seed. Yet, they are only one game ahead of the Portland Trailblazers. In fact, the Rockets are closer to earning the No. 5 or 6 seed than they are to finishing with the No. 1 seed. They have gone (9-1) over their last 10 games just to be in position to hold home court in the first round.
Currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are tied with a (42-29) record. However, they have been going in different directions since the all-star break. The Spurs have won nine games in a row. They actually hold the No. 5 seed if the regular season ended today. Remember, the Spurs lost 4 of 5 games prior to all-star break. They lost the first three games after the break, including an embarrassing defeat to the New York Knicks. Well, that rodeo trip is way in the past now. Six of those wins came against playoff teams. In fact, they had victories over the Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks. Their latest victory over the Warriors came on Monday night. In other words, the Spurs have defeated three of the best NBA teams in March.
With the Utah Jazz (41-29) and Los Angeles Clippers (41-30) separating itself from the playoff hopefuls, the Western Conference has all of their postseason teams locked and loaded. Now, they just have to position themselves in whatever order.
It’s shocking but the 8th place Clippers are seven games behind the Warriors. They are six games ahead of the 9th place Sacramento Kings. As a result, the Clippers may finish anywhere from the No. 4 seed to the No. 8 seed. They have gone (8-2) in their last 10 games. Furthermore, the Clippers are currently on a four-game winning streak, equaling the Rockets run for second place in the west.
There are other factors that will contribute to the playoff race. Russell Westbrook is in the technical system right now. He’s already been suspended one game for receiving his 16th technical of the season. If he gets two more technical fouls, Westbrook will be forced to miss another game down the stretch. Therefore, the Thunder could finish in the final playoff spot if they aren’t careful.
C.J. McCollum also sustained a scary injury for the Trailblazers on Saturday. He will be out until next week. That’s great news for the Trailblazers. Instead of losing McCollum for the rest of the season he should be fine for postseason play. Therefore, it’s more important for McCollum to be healthy than to play before the month of March ends.
In the end, the Warriors should win the No. 1 seed in the regular season. However, they need to play better with Kevin Durant in the lineup. On paper, the Warriors have an easier schedule than the Nuggets down the stretch.