With less than a month to go in the NBA regular season, things are starting to really heat up as teams attempt to make their final push towards the playoffs.
In this recap, I take a look at the teams vying for the top seeds in each conference, as well as the teams battling for the final spots in the West and East.
In the West, three teams are clearly a cut above the rest. The Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets areby far the three best teams in the West with the best chances to reach the Finals. The Warriors, however, are without their star player, Kevin Durant, and are playing their worst basketball of the season. Over the past ten games, Golden State is just 5-5 with losses to lowly teams like the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. On Tuesday, March 14, the Warriors were only able to defeat the Joel Embiid-less 76ers by two points at home. Golden State is holding on to its No. 1 seed in the West with dear life and at this point it seems like only a matter of time that they surrender it to the Spurs. The Dubs are counting the days until Durant returns to the team from his knee injury because without him the Warriors are a merely just a great shooting team with very little depth.
The Spurs, on the other hand, are playing some of their best basketball of the season and are 9-1 over their past 10 games. Small forward Kawhi Leonard has been unstoppable over the past month and is making his case to be the league MVP every night. LaMarcus Aldridge had a scare with a heart condition, but luckily it was nothing major and has since been cleared to return to action. If they keep playing the way they are, the Spurs will easily take the first seed in the West from Golden State.
The Houston Rockets are led by MVP front-runner James Harden. The Rockets are red hot and making their push towards the playoffs. Mike D’Antoni’s team is the best three-point shooting team in the league, and since adding Lou Williams, Coach D’Antoni has said he wants the team to attempt 50 three-pointers a game for the rest of the season. On Monday, March 13, led by Harden’s 38 point, 10 rebound and 11 assist triple-double, the Rockets came back from down double digits to the Cleveland Cavaliers to win by five.
The eighth seed in the West likely will come down to the wire. The Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves are all within three-and-a-half games of each other and will battle it out for the final spot in the Western Conference till the end of the regular season.
In the East, the Cavaliers are not playing their basketball and are seeing their hold on the No. 1 seed slip from their grasp. They now are only ahead of the Celtics by two-and-a-half games and three ahead of the Wizards. The injury to Kevin Love has been a brutal loss for the Cavs, but they just picked up Larry Sanders, who has not played in the league in the past three seasons and are hoping he can contribute productive minutes off the bench.
The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are both playing some of their best basketball of the season and are making the final push for the East’s top seeds coming into the playoffs. The underrated Wizards’ addition of Bojan Bogdanovic at the trade deadline has added depth to the thin Washington rotation and given them a great scorer off the bench.
In the battle for the last two spots in the East, four teams currently sit within a game of each other. The Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks hold the last two spots, while the Chicago Bulls and surging Miami Heat are a half-game out of the eighth seed.
It will be very interesting to watch as the NBA regular season comes down the stretch. It is undoubtable that the league’s best teams, the Warriors and Cavaliers, cannot wait for their injured stars to return to their lineups.