It’s been a wild ride in the NBA since the All-Star Break! With the NCAA Finals over, all eyes are back on the NBA. Teams are manning up and trying to clinch their playoff seeds and a few others are just barely on the outside looking in at a 2018 playoff berth.
Who’s in the West and Who’s Looking in
The Houston Rockets have clinched the coveted #1 seed. As a Rip City fan myself, I hate to say this, but they seem unstoppable at this point. They have picked up momentum instead of slowing down, winning 28 out of their last 30.
The Golden State Warriors are also clinched in at #2. They’ve battled through key player injuries and still managed to hang on enough for one of the top two seeds. And despite playing second fiddle to the Rockets, they still have the Golden State Warriors as the odds-on favorites to win it all. Currently, the GSW sit at +125 (1.25 to 1) while the Rockets are +175, followed by the Cavs at +500 (5 to 1). It’s amazing to me that oddsmakers hasn't adjusted their odds for the Curry injury yet. You might want to take advantage of this ...
The Portland Trail Blazers are only a couple of games away from locking in that #3 spot. It’s truly the best place they can be. And if worse comes to worst, they still have a 98.6% probability of at least a #4 seed berth. Right now it looks like they would face the Jazz in the first round and then if they pass Utah, play the Warriors, which is normally a death sentence. But Rip City has taken a couple off of the Warriors recently, and Javale Mcgee landing on Steph Curry’s knee the other night causing a Grade-2 MCL tear means that if Curry plays in Round-2, he won’t be 100%.
The San Antonio Spurs just snatched up the 4th spot (not locked). Their Huge win over the Rockets on Sunday puts them one game up over OKC in the loss column. The Spurs are by no means safe. They only have a two-game separation from the 8th seed and their clinch number is 4 games… we could definitely see some shifting around.
The OKC Thunder are only a half of a game back on the Spurs but that is .5 games closer to a 6th seed. They have Golden State, Houston, and then travel to face the Heat in Miami over their next three games. Now, will they get lucky and have easy games against the already clinched top-2? Ultimately I think they will get gifted a couple of wins against Warriors and Rockets to make life harder for the Spurs, Jazz, and the rest behind them. And Ultimately, I feel like they are just playing a game of home-court advantage against the Spurs. I have a feeling we will see the same two teams in the 4 and 5 spots, just with the Thunder at #4 as we enter the playoffs.
The Utah Jazz are sitting in 6th but again, no one is safe between #9 and #4 they are just a couple of games out of that 4th spot and have the Lakers, the Clippers, then the Lakers again … so they have a great opportunity to win three straight and edge closer. The Spurs have nearly the same schedule but have to face the Trail Blazers in their next three, so we could see the gap cut to nil and we move to head-to-head percentages in the #4, #5, #6 spots. If the Jazz maintain their current posture they will have to face the Blazers and hope they can take one from Portland early at the Rose Garden in Round-1.
The Timberwolves would currently ride into the playoffs at #7 with the likely-hood of facing the Warriors. With the fact that Steve Kerr openly stated that Steph Curry won’t be playing in Round-1, Durant still playing with a bit of a sore back, and Thompson nursing a busted up shooting-hand, the T-Wolves actually might have a prayer of moving into Round-2. They also have the 5th easiest remaining schedule, so there is a chance that they move up to the 6th seed.
The New Orleans Pelicans are bringing up the rear for the honor of an 8th-seeded playoff berth and an early exit in Round-1 against the Beard, CP3 and the rest of the Houston Rockets. They have a fairly easy remaining schedule. Thus, slightly better than a 70% chance of making the playoffs. But the Nuggets and the Clippers are nipping at their heels.
The Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers are just outside at the moment and are knocking on the door. The Nuggets are only a game behind the Pelicans but have a brutal upcoming schedule. They have to face the Pacers who are vying for that #4 spot in the East, the Timberwolves who are trying to secure their spot at 7th in the West and have a head-to-head against the Clippers who are just a game back from Denver and are also fighting tooth and nail to get in.
Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen. The NBA’s wild regular season ride through the Western Conference isn't over just yet!