Hornets’ magic number is 3 to clinch No. 1 seed

Thursday, April 10, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

An updated look at the teams involved in the Western Conference playoff race, entering games of Thursday, April 10:

1, NEW ORLEANS (55-23)
Hornets can come extremely close to ending the race for top seed in the West by winning at the Lakers on Friday.
Magic numbers: 3 to clinch top seed in Western Conference; 2 to clinch Southwest Division title; 2 to clinch homecourt advantage in first round of playoffs.
Noteworthy: Hornets have never won a division championship or finished as a No. 1 seed in team history.

2, SAN ANTONIO (53-25)
Chances of catching Hornets were dealt severe blow by Wednesday’s 17-point home loss to Suns.
Tiebreaker vs. Hornets: Spurs will lose it.
Noteworthy: If San Antonio runs the table, going 4-0 the rest of the way, it would still need New Orleans to go 1-3 or worse to pull out a Southwest Division title.

3, L.A. LAKERS (53-25)
After Tuesday’s loss in Portland, combined with Phoenix’s big win at San Antonio, the Pacific Division lead is down to just a half game, but Lakers have tiebreaker over Suns.
Tiebreaker vs. Hornets: Lakers will have it if they beat Hornets on Friday, but will not have tiebreaker if they lose that game.
Noteworthy: After an on-paper breather against the Clippers tonight, Lakers have two momentous home games on weekend vs. Hornets and Spurs.

4, UTAH (52-26)
Northwest Division champions have won four straight and now have chance to move up to as high as No. 2 seed.
Tiebreaker vs. Hornets: Jazz will have it based on 3-1 series edge.
Noteworthy: Utah’s four-game remaining schedule is as tough as anyone’s in the West, including trips to Dallas (tonight) and San Antonio (Wednesday), along with home games vs. Denver (Saturday) and Houston (Monday).

5, HOUSTON (53-25)
Quietly, Rockets have won four straight and now have moved into a tie record-wise with San Antonio and the Lakers.
Tiebreaker vs. Hornets: Rockets will lose it based on division record.
Noteworthy: Next three games are all tough – home vs. Phoenix, at Denver and at Utah.

6, PHOENIX (52-26)
If Suns can win at Houston on Friday, they’d only need to win home games against Warriors and Trail Blazers next week to apply major pressure on Lakers in Pacific Division title chase.
Tiebreaker vs. Hornets: Suns will lose it based on 0-4 record in season series.
Noteworthy: With teams ahead of them in the standings playing each other in the coming days, a 3-0 finish would probably at least assure them of homecourt advantage in first round of playoffs.

7, DALLAS (49-29)
A win tonight vs. Utah, combined with a Golden State loss to Denver, will wrap up a playoff berth for Mavericks.
Noteworthy: Mavs have tiebreaker advantage on Warriors, but would lose it to Nuggets.

8, DENVER (47-31)
The biggest game of the season for both the Nuggets and Warriors will take place in Oakland tonight (7 p.m., TNT). The game should go a long way toward determining who the Hornets’ first-round opponent will be, if New Orleans ends up as the No. 1 seed.
Noteworthy: Nuggets have tiebreaking edge vs. Golden State. After tonight, Nuggets are at Utah, then home vs. Houston and Memphis.

9, GOLDEN STATE (47-31)
Since the Nuggets have the tiebreaking advantage over the Warriors, tonight’s game is even more important mathematically for Golden State than it is for Denver.
Noteworthy: Golden State closes regular season vs. Clippers, at Phoenix, vs. Seattle.