As the playoffs are approaching, I just wanted to talk a little about what the playoff picture can look like in the Western Conference. With four or so games remaining, here is where things currently stand in the West:
Right now the Rockets are in the seventh place and OKC just moved up into first after the Spurs lost last night to Denver. Here are the games remaining for the teams in the West:
I’m not gonna go through and make any specific predictions about what teams are going to win which remaining games. You can feel free to do that yourself. Without going into too much detail, here’s where I think things will shake out come playoff time. I think Rockets will finish in the 6th place and OKC will stay at number 1. I think Denver is also going to hang onto the number 3 seed. So here’s the standings in the West as I see them:
- Lakers or Jazz
The reason I think OKC will hang onto the top spot is that the Spurs are going to rest their players–especially Parker–and OKC has more incentive to stay in the number 1 spot for several reasons. This young OKC team has accomplished a lot, but I don’t think they’ve finished with the best record in the West, yet. So I think they’ll want that for bragging rights. I also don’t think any of the players or management want to face Harden in the first round (even though Rockets are likely to move into the 6th seed), either because they don’t want to be the ones to eliminate him or management would get skewered if they lost to Harden in the first round. So, overall OKC has much more incentive to take the top spot.
I think Rockets will take the 6th seed, because they have a much easier schedule than the Warriors going into the home stretch. Unless there’s going to be shenanigans and teams rest players or are trying to throw games, I think the Rockets will overtake the Warriors for the 6th spot. This means that the Rockets will likely match up against Denver or maybe even Memphis. Clippers are out of the picture, because of tiebreaker situations, etc. Clippers will stay in the 4th spot, so there’s really no chance the Rockets will be facing the Clippers. This being the case, if Rockets move to the 6th spot, they have to pick their poison against the Nuggets or the Grizzlies. I would probably prefer the Grizzlies to the Nuggets, but I don’t think Nuggets are giving up the 3rd spot, since they own the tiebreaker against the Grizzlies. So the Rockets can either choose to stay where they’re at and throw a few games and rest some guys so they can battle against the Spurs or move up and go against the Nuggets.
I don’t know how you all feel, but I’d actually rather the Rockets match up against the Spurs, so I would prefer them to stay where they’re at. The Spurs are, no doubt, a very tough team—especially in the playoffs–since they’re so well coached. But I think Rockets style of basketball has a better chance of winning against the Spurs than the Nuggets. Nuggets are just a better, more athletic version of the Rockets. Iggy has Harden’s number and Asik also has had trouble against the really fast and athletic Nuggets team. I wonder what Morey or McHale or the Rockets guys are thinking. My guess is that they’re going to do their best and move up and, at the end of the day, I’m fine with that, because it’s not like it would be a cake walk against the Spurs anyway. Hopefully, Harden learns how to play against Iggy and not revert to desperation Hero Ball mode. Lin seems to do well against the Nuggets, so I guess as a Lin fan, I should be rooting for Rockets to take on the Nuggets. Also, I don’t like the idea of throwing games. I think it probably does something to the winning psyche. So I guess Rockets should just play their game and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe rest some key players here and there. Either way, I just hope for no injuries or flu or food poisoning, etc. for the rest of the way and into the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how McHale handles the playoffs, as well as how these young guys respond to the test.
I haven’t been paying too much attention to the Lakers, so have no idea how they’ve been playing, lately. The Jazz are only a game behind the Lakers and Jazz own the tiebreaker. Lakers also have a much tougher match up going into the playoffs, even though they’ll be playing at home the rest of the way. It’s crazy to think about it, but there’s actually a pretty good chance the Lakers don’t make the playoffs. Not sure how I feel about that. I was inactively (meaning I didn’t pay much attention to them, but was content to see them fight for the 8th spot the entire season) rooting against the Lakers this entire season, because I don’t like teams that just try and throw a bunch of big names together for the sake of having big names. I wanted the Lakers to fail to teach GMs a valuable lesson. But now that the playoffs are approaching, a small part of me feels like there’s something not quite right about Kobe not being in the playoffs. To hell with it. What am I saying? It would be pretty awesome if the Lakers don’t make the playoffs. This is what I’ll be watching for and actively rooting for in the coming days. Go Jazz!