Just one week into the Fight for the Playoffs series and the landscape has shifted yet again. The Jazz now find themselves sitting on the 8th seed, riding a 4 game winning streak. The Lakers have slipped out of the playoffs, but only by a tiebreaker. Dallas is only one loss behind both of them. Meanwhile Golden State and Houston are sitting at 6th and 7th. Their records over the last 10 games have solidified their positions there, but will it last? The race is heating up.
Golden State: They have an easy schedule this week. They start with New Orleans at home Wednesday(after not playing since Saturday). On Friday they head to Phoenix and Sunday they come home to face the Jazz. With both Phoenix and New Orleans outside of the playoff picture, Golden state has only two concerns this week. Rust from not playing for 5 days, and the Utah Jazz, who are in the midst of a 4 game winning streak.
Last Week: 2-1, with a surprising loss to Sacramento.
Prediction: Golden State goes 2-1, their most likely losses coming on either of their home games due to rust or if the Jazz rise to the occasion. Either way, Golden State stays at the top of this pack.
Houston: The Rockets look to maintain their ground as well this week. First they get a visit from the Orlando Magic, a team still trying to find itself. Then they hit the road, first facing Sacramento, who can only play spoiler now that they’re officially out of the playoff race. Traveling to Portland and then Denver will provide increasingly greater challenges to them this week.
Last Week: 1-2, their schedule did prove tough, but they definitely showed their mettle by beating the Clippers without James Harden. That shows more about this team than anything, since they may get a first round bout against the Clippers depending on how things pan out.
Prediction: Houston bounces back this week, going 3-1. Denver’s just been too good as of late, going 8-2 in their last 10.
Utah: The Jazz start the week with a nice homestand, always a plus for Utah. The visitors are Portland, Denver and New Orleans. They finish out the week by heading to Oakland to take on the Warriors.
Last Week: 4-0, with none of the games closer than 10 points. The Jazz just may have hit their stride, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
Prediction: They stay hot, going 3-1 with a loss either to the Warriors or Denver.
LA Lakers: The Laker’s control their fate this week, playing Dallas Tuesday, Memphis Friday, and an ‘away’ game against the Clips on Sunday. The Dallas game is huge for both teams, with Dallas having a chance to leapfrog passed the Lakers, and the Lakers wanting to stay in the hunt for 8th. A visit from Memphis and a slightly hostile crowd on Sunday facing the Clippers will be a tough challenge for LA. This week may just be the week that makes or breaks the Lakers.
Last week: 2-2. My prediction about Minnesota being tough was right on the money, and if not for the no-call against Kobe the Timberwolves might have made the Lakers 1-3 in overtime. Checkout the play here, you decide: http://www.nba.com/video/games/timberwolves/2013/03/27/0021201066-lal-min-play5.nba
Prediction: With a tough schedule this week, the Lakers go 1-2. If they want a better record than that, they’ll have to show they’re the championship caliber team they were touted to be before the season began.
Dallas: This is a make or break week for Dallas. Beating the Lakers on Tuesday would put them in great position to nab the 8th seed. They’ll be on the road all this week though, visiting Denver, Sacramento and Portland this week. Luckily Denver’s the only team that’s clearly better than Dallas, but still, with 4 road games they’ll be hard pressed this week as they fight for a playoff spot.
Last week: 2-1, taking a beating in Indiana.
Prediction: 2-2, possibly 3-1. Road trips are tough to have a winning record on, especially with most of the teams they’re facing either in the playoffs or fighting for the same spot Dallas is. Dallas was a low seeded team when they won the Championship 2 years ago, so I don’t think you can count them out.
Portland: Portland needs a miracle now. Having lost 4 straight, they’ll need more than a few Ws to get back in the conversation for the playoffs. With a visit to Utah and visits from Memphis, Houston, and Dallas, finding that miracle will be near impossible.
Last week: 0-3, losing by 10+. Where the Jazz are on the rise, Portland is in a freefall.
Prediction: They fall out of the playoff picture, going at best 2-2, but likely 1-3. That may not put them officially out, but it’ll be close.