Utah Jazz: Fight for the Playoffs: Week 1

With the top five teams in the West already a lock for the playoffs, there are only 3 spots left in the west.  Problem is,  there’s 6  teams with a realistic chance of nabbing those spots, including Utah.

As this race heats up, I’d like to take this opportunity to begin a weekly update of the playoff chances for these teams.  I’ll include my thoughts on what each team will need to do to move up in the standings or hold their ground.
The six teams are Golden State, Houston, the LA Lakers, Utah, Dallas, and Portland, in order of their current standings.

Golden State:

Sitting with the sixth seed with a record of 41-31 they are in the best position to not only make the playoffs, but possibly move up past Memphis, especially with their current slump and drumming they got from John Wall and the Wizards last night. Golden State had a tough start to their week though, facing the Lakers, but managed a big lead and held on for the win. A visit from Sacramento and Portland, bottom half teams in the west, to Oracle arena later in the week should help in their ability to at least hold their ground, if not pass the Grizzles.

Prediction: They stay in 6th place, going 2-0 or maybe 1-1 the remainder of this week, if Portland can win in Oakland.  If they go 2-0, they may just slip ahead of the Grizzles.

Houston:

With the emergence of James Harden this season, and fresh off of him winning player of the week, Houston is in good position to stand their ground.  They may even move up should Golden State slip, though the Warriors schedule  suggests otherwise. The Rockets have a tough schedule, facing Indiana at home, flying out to Memphis, before returning home to face the Clippers the next night. With Memphis slipping though, this may be their opportunity to help themselves and Golden State move up.

Prediction: Houston goes 2-1, with the most likely loss to the Clippers at the tail end of their back-to-back that also includes a flight home.

Lakers: The Lakers loss to Golden State, especially combined with Dallas and Utah’s recent wins puts a lot of pressure on the Lakeshow. Visits to Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Sacramento should help their cause. They are all road games though. Minnesota especially has a good shot of taking down the Lakers with Ricky Rubio, a much younger Nash type point-guard, at the helm.

Prediction: The Lakers go 2-1, losing to Minnesota.

Jazz: The Jazz have slipped recently, allowing the Lakers into the playoff picture. There is still hope however, and it began last night with a visit from Philadelphia who’s had a tough season after trading Iguadala for an MIA Andrew Bynum, a solid W for the Jazz. With Golden State beating LA, they’re knocking on the door of 8th place. With another home game against Phoenix, a trip to Portland and a return home to face the Brooklyn  Nets and Portland again the Jazz have a busy but fairly decent schedule.

Prediction: The Jazz go 3-1 or 2-2 the rest of this week. If they can pull out a 3-1(winning all but the Brooklyn game or one of the Portland games) they’ll be in prime position to overtake the Lakers for the 8th seed. Let’s hope.

Dallas: Despite having all home games this week, the Mavs have probably the toughest schedule of all the teams on this list.  They faced the LA Clippers, and will follow-up with the Pacers and Chicago.  All of them are playoff bound teams seeded 6th or higher. Dallas did manage a thrilling win against the Clips, which definitely helps.  Tied with Utah and right behind the Lakers, a solid push could get them in the playoffs.

Prediction: Dallas goes 1-1 or 2-0. I don’t see them winning or losing both.  I do see it being more likely 1-1, with either a win against the Pacers or Chicago, but unlikely both.

Portland: At this point Portland’s chances of making a playoff bid depend more on the rise or fall of the Lakers, Jazz and Dallas. With a chance to play the Jazz twice this week and Golden State they are in control of their fate.  Facing those teams may also put their playoff hopes beyond reach.  A visit from the Brooklyn Nets will also prove challenging.

Prediction: Portland goes 2-2 or 1-3 remaining at the bottom of the pack. They’ll likely split the Jazz games, and get thumped by Golden state and/or Brooklyn.