Photo Courtesy: USA Today

The Wild, Wild Western Conference

Closer look at the Western Conference with one week remaining

April 06, 2018 - 2:10 pm

By Austin Medina

With the NBA season coming to a close, the race for the playoffs is coming down to the wire. In particular, the Western Conference is extremely tight. Just two games separate the four seed from the eight seed and there are seven teams fighting for five spots.

The Houston Rockets are locked in as the number one seed followed by the Golden State Warriors. The Portland Trail Blazers have shocked the league as they now have a two-game lead on the #3 seed. However, it’s what follows that is intriguing.

Take a minute before digesting the standings. The Jazz are currently the #4 seed with a one-game lead over both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. The New Orleans Pelicans are the #7 seed and just a half game back of the Spurs and Thunder. As if the standings aren’t chaotic enough, the Pelicans have just a half-game lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets. The Los Angeles Clippers are seeing their playoff aspirations deteriorate right before their eyes as they are now two games back of the #8 seed.  All of this comes down to the final week of the season. From the Jazz to the Clippers, all the teams in the hunt in exception for New Orleans have just three games left.

Three games.

The Jazz plays the Trail Blazers on the final night of the regular season next Wednesday in Portland.

The Spurs have games against the Blazers Saturday night as well as a final game against the Pelicans. The Thunder have a huge game Saturday against the Rockets along with a game Monday in Miami.

For New Orleans in addition to the season finale against San Antonio, they have games against the Warriors and the Clippers. The Pelicans have four games left and for all the teams, the mindset is simply: WIN! For teams on the outside looking in, they have to win and hope that others lose their respective games.

The Timberwolves have a season finale matchup with the Nuggets, who they just lost to Thursday night. Denver, who is currently one of those teams on the outside looking in, may have the toughest remaining schedule with games against the Clippers, Blazers, and of course the Timberwolves.

Of course, all these games have huge playoff implication at stake and there are many storylines to look towards. What would happen to Paul George if the Thunder misses the playoffs? Will Jimmy Butler return to secure Minnesota’s playoff berth, which they haven’t made since 2004? Will another disappointing season be enough for New Orleans to shop Anthony Davis? Is it believable for the Spurs not to make the playoffs?

All of these questions and mysteries. When it’s all said and done, you just have to roll the ball out on the court, take care of business, and play on. After all, it is just basketball. Right?