Originally posted on Thunder The Influence  |  Last updated 3/26/13
Less than a week remains until the month of April, which means playoff basketball is almost here. The NBA Playoffs could be at an all-time high in the Western Conference with the West crown wide open and the match-ups with plenty of grab for fans. Taking a look from top to bottom, here is how the West is shaking up as we dive in to the last push for postseason positioning. Top Spot Up For Grabs: The Spurs lead the Thunder by a game-and-a-half, but that could all change with San Antonio's remaining schedule. The Nuggest, Clippers, Heat, Thunder, Lakers, and Warriors are all potential losses with Tony Parker still recovering. San Antonio more than likely takes the top spot at the rate Oklahoma City has been dropping games lately, but anything is possible.  The top spot is definitely not out of reach, but it's going to be tough with the Thunder's remaining slate, which includes San Antonio, some of the East's best, and a trip to the West coast. The scheduling committee did no favors for the Thunder with a not-so spread out last eleven games. These guys may be young, but they have to be fresh for potential first round match-ups with the Lakers, Rockets, or Warriors. Avoiding the One Seed: Seeds 3-5 is a tight race between the Clippers, Nuggets, and Memphis. One game separates Memphis from the Clips and Nugs, so there's a still chance for the Grizzlies to sneak in to the third spot. It won't be easy with a West-heavy remaining schedule, but this is a tough Grizzlies as all Thunder fans saw last week. Lionel Hollins likes playing the percentages with match-ups, and getting to that second seed and avoiding a first round match-up with the Clips or Nuggets and not getting the top seed until the third round would be ideal for the Grizzlies, and vice versa for the other two. Honestly, though EVERYONE wins with third, fourth, and fifth seed still on the line. Fans are going to get a great 4/5 match-up, and not to play favorites, but who wouldn't want to see Memphis and Los Angeles battle it out in the first round? Holding On For Dear Life: Golden State and Houston have not clinched, but they are surely locked in to the six and seven spot. It creates an interesting race, because from their point of view, that six seed avoids the first and second seed. The Warriors have been struggling lately, but both teams have a lot to offer. The Rockets stole one from the Spurs Sunday, but their remaining slate poses a bit of a challenge while the Warriors' slate is more preferrrable. I give the edge to the Warriors to hold on to the six spot. As for the Lakers, they are the eight seed at the moment. However, they only hold a one game lead over the Utah Jazz. The Lakers missing the playoffs with this cast just seems unreal, but this is the world we live in right now. Utah has a fighting chance, especially with their slate. Teams will begin to tank for a better lottery pick and playoff teams who are locks will start resting players. Though, that last sentence goes for any team, but you can't speculate who will and who won't (minus San Antonio). Regardless, the Lakers have the advantage, but it would not shock anyone if Utah snuck up on the Lakers and stole their playoff berth. Though, interestingly, the Dallas Mavericks are one-and-a-half games back from the eight seed, so you can't count on the Mavs just yet. They are fighting an uphill battle, but they are in contention, but they'll need some help. Joe's Projected Western Conference as of Mar. 26: (1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Los Angeles Lakers (2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Houston Rockets (3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies Side Note: Not sure I personally will have a life if these match-ups surface in late April.  
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