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There is a little more than a month left in the NBA season and every remaining game seemingly has playoff implications. As all NBA fans know, the top eight teams from each conference make the postseason, and while those eight teams look to be firmly set in the East, the West lacks that clarity.

Where things get particularly interesting out West are those final three playoff spots. As of this morning, six teams are contending for the sixth through eighth seeds, and only 5.5 games separate them in the standings. For the sake of this blog entry, we will label these six teams – Warriors, Rockets, Lakers, Jazz, Mavericks and Trail Blazers – as playoff hopefuls. Below is a look at each of these six team’s remaining schedules, in the order of which they currently appear in the Western Conference standings.

Team, Standing
Remaining Games (H)
Remaining Opp.
Remaining Opp. w/
Winning Records
Warriors, 6th
17 (11)
Rockets, 7th
18 (12)
Jazz, 8th
18 (10)
Lakers, T-8th
18 (8)
Mavericks, 10th
20 (12)
Trail Blazers, T-10th
20 (12)

36-29, sixth place, 17 games left (11 at home), Remaining Opponent Winning Percentage: .449

Of the Warriors’ 17 remaining games, eight are against teams currently with winning records. In addition, they have six upcoming contests against fellow playoff hopefuls and seven games against teams that currently own one of the league’s nine worst winning percentages (.350 and below). The Warriors have struggled as of late but are still 21-9 at home, and following next week’s three-game road trip, they’ll play nine of their last 12 games at Oracle Arena. It certainly bodes well that the Warriors will spend the entire month of April in the Pacific time zone, at least for the regular season, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that they have the easiest remaining schedule in terms of remaining opponent winning percentage of these playoff hopefuls.

The Warriors are light on playoff experience, but have plenty of veteran leadership in Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Jarrett Jack. photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)

34-30, seventh place, 18 games left (12 at home), Remaining Opponent Winning Percentage: .510

Despite just being one game above the ninth place team in the standings, the Rockets are in a favorable position as far as making the playoffs. They have gone 9-7 against these playoff hopeful teams and have only four games remaining against them, meaning there isn’t much opportunity to lose ground in these head-to-head matchups. Like the Warriors, the Rockets thrive at home and two-thirds of their remaining schedule will be played in Houston. Furthermore, the Rockets have eight games left against teams with a winning percentage of .350 or below, more than any other team competing for one of these last three playoff spots in the West.

33-31, eighth place, 18 games left (10 at home), Remaining Opponent Winning Percentage: .549

If the season ended today, the Jazz would be in the playoffs. But that might not ring true for too much longer. Utah’s next five opponents are Oklahoma City, Memphis, New York, Houston and San Antonio, all of which are in position to make the playoffs, and all but Houston likely to have home court advantage in the first round. The Jazz have lost seven of their last nine games and given their upcoming schedule, it’s quite realistic that it will get worse before it gets better. Even with the majority of their remaining games taking place in Salt Lake City, they still can’t deny the fact that their remaining opponents have a .549 winning percentage.

33-31, tied for eighth place, 18 games left (eight at home), Remaining Opponent Winning Percentage: .491

After a tumultuous first few months to the season in Los Angeles, the Lakers are finally playing up to expectations. They have won eight of their last 10 games and Kobe Bryant is playing like an MVP candidate. Other than the Warriors, the Lakers have the easiest remaining schedule as far as the six playoff hopefuls mentioned here. They have seven games remaining against the nine worst teams in the league (by record), and if they can tread water during an upcoming stretch that sees them on the road for eight of their next 10 games, then they will likely secure a playoff spot and possibly contend for the sixth seed currently occupied by the Warriors.

The Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games and are in prime position to overtake the Jazz for a playoff spot in the West. photo: NBAE/Getty Images)

29-33, 10th place, 20 games left (12 at home), Remaining Opponent Winning Percentage: .543

The Mavericks have a challenging road ahead of them if they wish to make the playoffs. Although they have won four of their last five games to get back into the postseason conversation, the Mavs have a daunting schedule for the remainder of March with 10 of their next 11 opponents currently in position to make the playoffs. Fourteen of Dallas’ 20 remaining games are against teams with winning records, and of their five contests left against teams with winning percentages of .350 and below, two are on the back end of a back-to-back. Considering they are already three games out of the eighth spot, the Mavericks will need a lot of things to go their way should their season continue beyond April 17.

29-33, tied-10th place, 20 games left (11 at home), Remaining Opponent Winning Percentage: .557

The Trail Blazers lost seven-straight games last month, and that might have eliminated all but the thinnest sliver of their postseason hopes. Portland is now in an identical situation to Dallas – three games out of the eighth spot and a very, very challenging road the rest of the way. The remaining Blazers’ opponents have a combined winning percentage of .557, which is the highest among these playoff hopefuls. The Trail Blazers do have seven games against the teams competing for those last three playoff spots in the West, including two against the Warriors, and they’ll likely have to go darn-near perfect in those matchups if they even want to think about being playoff bound.

By the numbers listed above, it looks like the Warriors, Rockets and Lakers have the best chance of being the sixth, seventh and eight seeds in the Western Conference Playoffs, but what order they finish in is anybody’s guess. Of course, this analysis is just by looking at the numbers, and the teams will determine their playoff fate by their performance on the court. And who knows, things may change. An injury to a key player on any of these teams can devastate some playoff hopes, or things can just suddenly click for a team and they can go off on a ridiculous run like the 2006-07 Warriors, who won 16 of their final 21 games before clinching a playoff berth on the last day of the season. So whatever happens over the next month and some change, it will be interesting.

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