With six to seven games each to play for the final four contending teams in the Western Conference, the final stretch of the NBA regular season has just got very interesting. The Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns are all still alive in fighting for the final three slots—No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8--- in the tough Western Conference postseason race.
Of course, all four knows a loss here and there can bring them to the bubble in this battle—tough to take considering all have been in the playoff picture at some point during the season. The wild west is hard to predict as well so it doesn’t matter if they end up at 6th or 8th—getting into the postseason means a fighting chance to upset the higher seeds.
Here’s a quick look at the scenarios and schedule for the teams involved in the mad dash to be part of the playoff picture:
Battle for the West’s Final Three Slots:
6. Golden State Warriors (46-29) 7. Dallas Mavericks (45-31) 8. Memphis Grizzlies (44-31) 9. Phoenix Suns (44-31)
The Golden State Warriors beat the Dallas Mavericks, on Wednesday in what was a crucial win that put the Dubs ahead of the four-team pack. It was without a controversial ending when a Jermaine O’Neal block on Monta Ellis was ruled legit by the (incompetent) referees.
Still, the Mavericks, being the veteran team, did not let the bad call and worse loss affect them and immediately turned it around on Thursday when they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in a close one,
That win broke a three-way tie as the Mavs improved to 45-31, now half a game ahead of the Grizzlies and Suns which shares the eighth and final spot at 44-31.
Golden State Warriors (4 home, 3 away) - SAC, UTA, DEN, @LAL, @POR, MIN, @DEN Dallas Mavericks (45-31) - @LAL, @SAC, @UTA, SAS, PHX, @MEM Memphis Grizzlies (3 home, 4 away) - @DEN, @SAS, MIA, PHI, @LAL, @PHX, DAL Phoenix Suns (2 home, 5 away) - @POR, OKC, @NOP, @SAS, @DAL, MEM, @SAC
A speedy browse at the schedule suggests that the Suns will be eliminated from this race… Then again, they are the surprise team of the season so maybe they have a few tricks up their sleeves. That schedule looks like a killer though: 5 away games including match-ups with the Trail Blazers, Spurs and Mavericks! Even their home games are tough as they will be up against the Thunder and Grizzlies!
The easiest games go to the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki’s next three will be against scrub teams Lakers, Kings and Jazz. Similarly, the Warriors will have peanuts as well going up against the Kings, Jazz, Nuggets (twice), Lakers and Timbewolves in the final stretch.
In other words, the battle for the 8th spot will be between the Grizzlies and Suns. Curiously, they meet in their penultimate games of the season.