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The Remaining Games in the West

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It's time to take a look at the remaining schedule for the 2nd-9th place teams in the West.  Perhaps we can help sort out the standings chaos and take a look at which teams have the inside track to good seed and which are just hoping to hold on.  We'll look at Portland's path first and then take the other teams in order of current standings, figuring out how likely it is that the Blazers might overtaken them or vice-versa.

Portland Trail Blazers  44-27

  • Phoenix 
  • Memphis
  • Utah
  • @OKC
  • @Houston
  • @Memphis
  • @San Antonio
  • L*kers
  • @Clippers
  • OKC
  • Denver

Games Remaining:  11

Home vs Away: 6-5

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  5-6

Back-to-Back:  2

The Blazers just about split the middle of prospective playoff teams.  They're nearly even in Home vs. Away and Below .500 or Above.  They will be exactly even after Thursday.  With only 2 back-to-backs and only one pair of consecutive games versus Above .500 teams they're better off than many in this race.  The Blazers play 5 games in which they should be solidly favored, 3 at which they'll be considered at a disadvantage, and 3 toss-ups:  Phoenix, Utah, and Denver.  That puts the likely record between 49-52 wins, give or take one either way. 

San Antonio Spurs  46-24

  • @Atlanta
  • Clippers
  • @New Orleans
  • OKC
  • @Indiana
  • @Cleveland
  • @OKC
  • Portland
  • Utah
  • @Sacramento
  • @Golden State
  • New Orleans

Games Remaining:  12

Home vs Away:  5-7

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  6-6

Back-to-Back:  3

[Dave's Disclaimer:]  I literally was falling asleep ON my keyboard as I did this last night and messed up the SA schedule by missing three games and their record against Portland.  I have fixed it.  I did not do the strikethrough thing as it would have left a big mess on the page given how much had to be changed.  But I am owning the mistake publicly here so nobody will have a complaint.

In order to catch the Spurs the Blazers would have to be on the upper end of their projected wins and hope for a San Antonio meltdown.  With only four road games, two of those being against relatively weak teams, that's not likely.  The key would be winning in San Antonio, but that's not common.

Houston Rockets  47-26

  • Clippers
  • @Phoenix 
  • @L*kers
  • Portland
  • Orlando
  • @Sacramento
  • @Golden State
  • New Orleans
  • @Dallas

Games Remaining:  9

Home vs Away:  4-5

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  3-6

Back-to-Back:  1

Like the Spurs, the Rockets have fewer losses and fewer games remaining than the Blazers.  The loss column advantage is only 1, however.  More importantly the teams have split 2 games so far this season and only 1 remains.  The winner of that game will own the tiebreaker between the teams.  Unfortunately for Portland that game is in Houston, a notoriously difficult place for the Blazers to pick up a win.  The Rockets do have a tough schedule remaining.  They play 3 road games against Western teams with winning records and 3 more home games against tough teams.  But they have only 1 back-to-back situation to face.  It wouldn't be impossible for the Blazers to catch the Rockets but it would take some big wins from Portland.

Denver Nuggets  45-26

  • @New Orleans
  • @Dallas
  • Golden State
  • New York
  • Utah
  • Clippers
  • @Minnesota
  • OKC
  • @L*kers
  • Sacramento
  • @Portland

Games Remaining:  11

Home vs Away:  6-5

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  6-5

Back-toBack:  3

This is where things get interesting for Portland, as winning the division over Denver and Utah would ensure a decent seed.   Denver has a slim, one-game edge in the loss column over Portland and 11 chances to lose that extra game.  Furthermore the last game of the season for these two teams will be played in Portland.  Denver will almost certainly own the tiebreaker regardless of the outcome of that game, meaning Portland has to surpass them to win.  The Nuggets have more home games than road games and are facing more sub-.500 teams than playoff contenders.  They face only one game that could be reasonably marked as a de facto loss:  the contest in L.A.  The games in Portland, New Orleans, and Dallas will be challenging.  Denver gets 5 home games in which they should be solidly favored.   The Blazers, by comparison, have 6 home games period, 4 of them potentially difficult.  Portland will be hard put to leapfrog the Nuggets and stay in front.

New Orleans Hornets  44-25

  • Denver
  • @Knicks
  • San Antonio
  • @Sacramento
  • @Clippers
  • @Golden State
  • Utah
  • @Miami
  • Phoenix 
  • @Dallas
  • Dallas
  • @Houston
  • @San Antonio

Games Remaining:  13

Home vs Away:  5-8

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  4-9

Back-toBack:  3

Compared to the rest of the conference's playoff contenders New Orleans faces an uphill battle.  They have more games remaining than anybody, more games on the road than anybody, and more games against plus-.500 teams than anybody.  While they face only one truly spirit-crushing game (the season finale in San Antonio) the sheer repetition of good teams coming against them is likely to show, especially in the season's last couple of weeks.  Even with a lead of 2 in the loss column this team could be vulnerable.

Utah Jazz  43-26

  • Houston
  • @Phoenix
  • Phoenix  (39-31)
  • New York
  • @Portland
  • @Denver
  • Minnesota
  • @New Orleans
  • @Dallas
  • @San Antonio
  • Golden State
  • Clippers
  • @L*kers

Games Remaining:  13

Home vs Away: 6-7

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  4-9

Back-to-Back:  5

Much like the Hornets, the Jazz have a ton of games left.  They play an enormous number of good teams as well.  Only 3 games out of 13 could be considered sure wins.  Everything else is a toss-up or probably loss.  Plus they've got an insane 5 sets of back-to-backs remaining. The Jazz will own the tiebreaker against the Blazers but it will be difficult to keep that far above water.  Portland has a good shot of passing them.

Dallas Mavericks  42-28

  • Golden State
  • Denver
  • @Cleveland
  • @Minnesota
  • Miami
  • @Memphis
  • Phoenix
  • Utah
  • New Orleans
  • @New Orleans
  • Minnesota
  • Houston

Games Remaining:  12

Home vs Away:    8-4

Below .500 vs. Above .500:   4-8

Back-toBack:  2

The Mavericks have the advantage of a home-weighted schedule the rest of the way.  The problem is, most of those home games are tough.  Portland's lead is only 1 game in the loss column but with this many opportunities for Dallas to lose to good teams Portland could well keep ahead.  The Mavericks do own the tiebreaker.

Phoenix Suns 39-31

  • Utah
  • @Portland
  • @Utah
  • @Sacramento
  • Houston
  • Sacramento
  • @Dallas
  • @New Orleans
  • @Memphis
  • @Minnesota
  • Memphis
  • Golden State

Games Remaining:  12

Home vs Away:  5-7

Below .500 vs. Above .500:  6-6

Back-toBack:  3

The Suns are 4 games behind the Blazers in the loss column and have to play some quality teams on the road.  That's a tall order no matter which way you slice it, new offense and 5-game winning streak or no.  It's easy to envision Phoenix winning 8 of its last 12 but that still only puts them at 47 wins, which is below the lower end of Portland's range.  The tiebreaker is still up for grabs in this contest though.  If Phoenix wins the final matchup between the two teams they possess it outright.  If Portland wins then it comes down to record against conference opponents.  The race there is close. 

It doesn't look like the top dogs in the conference are going to be giving up their positions, but some of the middle-runners could fall.  The Blazers just have to hope they're not among them.  The chances of Dallas and Phoenix both catching Portland seem quite small unless the Blazers decide to aid and abet by playing substandard ball.  On the other hand Portland is going to need more help than the relatively tight records indicate if it wants to move up significantly in the standings or even win the division.  Utah is probably vulnerable but Denver's schedule just isn't that tough.  If the Blazers owned more tiebreakers the outlook would be more cheery but those road losses against conference opponents kill you.  The most likely outcome, even with the jockeying, is the Blazers making the playoffs but not with a high seed.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)