Friday, March 12, 2004

posted by CHRIS - 1:52 AM

The Utah Jazz are only a ½ game out of the eighth seed in the NBA Western Conference playoffs, and they should have no problems making up the deficit within the next two months. The Denver Nuggets have the lead for the last spot currently, but they have played horribly, winning only two of their last ten games. Utah has won seven of the last ten.

With 18 games left in the season for Utah and 16 for Denver, every game matters. The two most important games for these teams will be the games they play against each other, one in Salt Lake City and one in Denver. If one team wins both of those games, I would have to believe that would pretty much set the eighth seed.

The other major factor about who will take the eighth seed is how well these teams play against the top teams in the league. Both teams will have ten games against teams with a .500 record or better. Utah - with games against the Lakers, Minnesota, San Antonio and Houston - has the easier schedule of the two. Denver plays Houston twice, Minnesota twice, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Eastern Conference defensive-powerhouse Detroit.

This should make the race for the West’s last playoff spot very exciting.

The wild cards in this whole situation are the Portland Trailblazers. They could spoil Utah’s or Denver’s playoff hopes. Sitting two games out of the playoffs, they aren’t completely eliminated either, although Portland does by far have the hardest schedule of the three - two games against the Lakers and San Antonio each, as well as games against Houston, Minnesota and the Eastern Conference leaders Indiana Pacers.

To take the eighth seed, I believe the Jazz will have to win twelve or thirteen of their remaining games, and two of those need to come against Denver.

Here are my predictions for the Western Conference:

1: Sacramento Kings (60-22)
2: Minnesota Timberwolves (57-25)
3: San Antonio (56-26)
4: Memphis Grizzlies (54-28)
5: Los Angeles Lakers (53-29)
6: Dallas Mavericks (51-31)
7: Houston Rockets (48-34)
8: Utah Jazz (45-37)

Just missing the playoffs:
9: Denver Nuggets (43-39)
10: Portland Trailblazers (41-41)


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