With the regular season nearing its climax, the West gets wilder by the day. And it's a good thing, right?
Over the course of the last 3 seasons, the Western Conference has been very much predictable as this is the conference that has been ruled by one specific team, the Golden State Warriors. Behind them are the playoff mainstays like the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets and, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Fast forward to the final stretch of the 2017-2018 regular, the Houston Rockets are back on the winning track just a few days after their 17-game winning streak was snapped by the Boston Celtics. Behind the Rockets of James Harden and Chris Paul are the Warriors who are on a 2-game LOSING streak without Steph Curry. To everyone's surprise, it's the Portland Trail Blazers of Damian Lillard who currently own the third-best record in the West as the Blazers continue wrecking havoc thanks to their ongoing 10-game winning streak. Now that's something we don't see every season, right?
But perhaps, one of the reasons why this potential line-up of the West which could make the playoffs, is wild and weird at the same time is the fact that the San Antonio Spurs- a team who has been making the playoffs, every single season for the past 20 years, are currently out of the playoff picture owing to their 37-27 which puts them in a 3-way tie for the 8th, 9th and 10th positions. Mind you, the Los Angeles Lakers are just a spot behind the Spurs and even the Lakers still have a shot at a potential return to the postseason despite being a young team and playing without their best player.
Can the Rockets end the season on top?
Judging by their final 15 games, it's going to be a tough run for Houston. They'll be playing against the Los Angeles Clippers next. Then, their schedule also includes games against the Thunder, the Blazers, the Spurs, and the New Orleans Pelicans. All of the mentioned teams are poised to make the playoffs so it's really a difficult schedule. Fortunately, James Harden is back and continues with his MVP ways.
Can the Blazers keep on blazing?
Like it or not, this has been the best we've seen from the Blazers in the last few seasons. They're currently the 5th-best rebounding team as well as the 3rd-best defensive teams right now plus the fact that Damian Lillard is on a tear. Can Portland keep their streak alive? It depends on their upcoming game against the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers. Why? After the Cavs, their schedule doesn't get "easier" as they are scheduled to face off against the Celtics, the Thunder and, the Rockets- heavyweight teams, right?
Then again, the Blazers actually beat the Warriors, TWICE, during their 10-game winning streak.
Who will snatch the 8th Spot?
- Utah Jazz
- Denver Nuggets
- San Antonio Spurs
- Los Angeles Lakers
These are the teams that are still in the running for a potential playoff spot. The first three are tied with an identical record of 37-27 while the Lakers are only behind by just 6 and a half games. Despite the relatively big margin, it's the Lakers who are likely to snatch the last playoff spot in the West owing to the fact that their schedule is among the easiest. And, Julius Randle is on a tear as well and so is Isaiah Thomas. But then, the Lakers will face the Nuggets, the Spurs and the Jazz (twice) in the final stretch of their schedule so the ball is in their hands. Win those games and you might be playing beyond April 11.
One way or another, the West has been wild and crazy at times but this season proves one thing: the rest of the West are finally catching up with the leaders after being enslaved by them during the past few seasons. In fact, this marks the first time that the Lakers reached 30 wins since Kobe Bryant had Dwight Howard in his team. So frankly, the Western Conference is no longer for the Warriors to lord over.