With less than 20 games to play in the regular season, the NBA playoff race in the Western Conference is extremely tight, with seeds three through eight separated by only four games. On top of that, the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets are all tied for the eighth seed.
The Tight NBA Playoff Race Out West
Will anyone catch the Rockets or Warriors?
Although many playoff spots are still up for grabs, both the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are sitting a whopping 11.5 games ahead of the rest of the conference. This means that there will only be two more spots available for any team hoping to claim homecourt advantage for at least the first round.
While it is nearly impossible for anyone to contend with Houston or Golden State atop the West, teams are competing for the opportunity to at least avoid the two juggernauts in the first round of the playoffs, which is why seeding is so important this season.
The importance of the seeding
With the playoff race being as tight as it currently is, teams can quickly see that they are literally one win or loss away from either possessing homecourt advantage or matching up with the deadly Warriors or Rockets in round one.
This also means that those top two teams must also be wary of who they could match up with in round one. For instance, if the current standings were to hold up, then the Warriors would have to match up with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. However, depending on which teams get hot or cold down the final stretch, they could end up facing a team like the Nuggets, Clippers, or even the San Antonio Spurs. Although it may not seem like a lot, 20 games is truly a significant amount of time to decide the postseason fate of eight or nine different teams.
Teams that could dethrone the Warriors in the West
As previously mentioned, a first-round matchup with the Thunder will be no walk in the park for Stephen Curry and company. Even though there is little chance that this Thunder team is ready to make a title run this season, they could provide an early test for the Warriors this postseason that Golden State may not be ready for.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers are two teams that could also put up a fight with the Warriors. However, even with Anthony Davis putting up MVP numbers as of late, a Pelicans team without DeMarcus Cousins is not quite as intimidating as one with him. The Blazers, on the other hand, have proven that when they are playing at their best, they can be as dangerous as any other team in the league thanks to the clutch play of Damian Lillard.
With all of that said, it will likely still come down to the Rockets being the only team with a true chance at reaching the NBA Finals over the Warriors. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of basketball to be played as we all sit around anxiously awaiting how the regular season will play out.
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