Four teams. Three spots.
With a quarter of the season remaining that his how the bottom of the Western Conference shakes out.
(Minnesota is 4.5 games out of the mix but in the deep Western Conference where it likely takes 47 wins to make the playoffs, meaning they have to go 17-6 the rest of the way. I don’t see that as a likely outcome.)
That leaves Golden State, Dallas, Phoenix and Memphis all within three games of each other (and more than four games back from the conference’s top five, so those five are safe). One of those four teams will not have a chair when the music stops.
And it could be any of them.
Which one is most likely? Let’s look at their upcoming schedules — listed in the order they stand currently, including how many quality teams they play and how many they play against others in this foursome.
|TEAM NAME||HOME-AWAY||VS. +500||VS. EACH OTHER|
|6. GOLDEN STATE (38-24)||13-7||10||4|
|7. PHOENIX (35-25, -2)||8-14||13||3|
|8. DALLAS (36-26, -2)||12-8||13||4|
|9. Memphis (34-26, -3)||9-13||13||3|
What can you read into that?
• Golden State is in a relatively good spot. They have a three-game cushion over the nine seed and the easiest schedule from here on out. They don’t have any road trips that take them east of the Mississippi. Only two of their last seven games are against teams over .500. There are no guarantees but they are the most likely team to find their way into the postseason.
• Dallas plays a lot of good teams — and they have struggled against the elite in the league — but they also have the advantage of having most of their games at home, where they are 19-10 this season. If they continue on pace of winning two thirds of their home games and just go .500 on the road they are at 48 wins this season, which will almost certainly earn them a ticket to the postseason dance.
• That leaves the most likely outcome — either Memphis or Phoenix is not going to make the cut. Both have tough schedules and they play the majority of their remaining games on the road. However, Memphis is the better road team (16-11 this season to the 14-13 of Phoenix).
• Obviously the games against others in this foursome are key.
• There are a three of games between these teams in the final week of the season that could turn out to be huge:
April 12: Suns at Mavericks
April 14: Grizzlies at Suns
April 16: Mavericks at Grizzlies