Just in case anyone needed another reason why the West was the dominant conference in the NBA this season, even the playoff run is more exciting than compared to the East. Here’s a look at how the Western Conference is currently stacked up from first seed to eighth:
There is no drama surrounding the #1 seed as San Antonio has had it pretty much locked down since February. The Spurs, owners of the NBA’s best record, are up by six over the Lakers with 11 to play, so it would be a significant collapse if that were to happen.
The Lakers in second are only two games ahead of Dallas at this point, so there may be some drama there, but all throughout the season whenever LA needed to play well and gain separation, they’ve been able to do it, mush to Dallas’ behest.
The Mavs are three games in front of Oklahoma City in fourth. OKC is “So hot right now” having won 10 of their last 12 games and winning half of those games on the road. The Thunder are 21-14 on the road this year, which is why a lot of fans think they can make a deep run into the playoffs. OKC also has six games remaining against sub .500 teams, most in the conference.
The real interesting part of the Western Conference seedings starts in the fifth spot and extends to the eight.
At five the Denver Nuggets are three games behind the Thunder. Who in the world would’ve thought that ditching Carmelo Anthony would’ve made them a better team? Some Denver fans aren’t surprised considering the amount of shots that were allotted every game solely to appease “Mello”, but no one really envisioned the immediate success considering they also lost Chauncey Billups, the forgotten man in the trade. With Denver’s unexpected success without him, and the Knicks lack of success with him, does it mean Billups isn’t as good as we think he is? Though highly unlikely, if Denver went 10-1 over their last 11 they could equal their 2010 win total.
Portland at six is only a game out of fifth and are very similar to Denver; you don’t know how they are going to score but they find a way to get it done. The Blazers and Nuggets are like the Hawks and 76ers of the Eastern Conference.
In the seventh slot currently are the New Orleans Hornets who have the toughest schedule in the conference for the rest of the season, with 10 of their final 11 games against teams with winning records. With only a ½ game lead over the eighth place Memphis Grizzlies, a bad stretch could seal either team’s fate and cement a first round match up with the Spurs. Losing Rudy Gay for the rest of the season hurts the Grizzlies in a way that’s worse than if any other team lost their stud player at this point of the season; they just don’t have the depth to compensate.
The Grizzlies better figure out something quick because the Houston Rockets are only two games behind and have to be thrilled to hear the Grizzlies have been limited due to Gay’s injury. Even without Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks, the Rockets could squeeze past the Grizzlies over the next couple weeks.
How is it going to shake out between Denver, Portland, New Orleans, Memphis and Houston? A five team race to the finish is exactly what everyone wants to see. Considering the potential lockout, enjoy the next couple weeks while you can.
image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison