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Countdown To The Playoffs: Thunder, Spurs Set To Battle For No. 1

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1. Spurs (48-15)    ---

2. Thunder (47-16) 1

3. Clippers (45-20) 4

4. Grizzlies (42-19) 5

5. Nuggets (42-22) 6.5

6. Warriors (35-29) 13.5

7. Rockets (34-30) 14.5

8. Lakers (33-31) 15.5


9. Jazz  (32-31) 16

10. Mavericks (29-33) 18.5

11. Blazers (29-33) 18.5

The success of the Nuggets and Grizzlies has really started to put some separation in between the Western Conference's top five teams the rest of the league. The race for each of the West's top-four spots appears headed right down to the wire, while the four-team race for the final three seeds has shifted dramatically as Utah continues to sputter and the Lakers continue to win.

Every Monday, we'll have an updated look at who's doing what as we count down to the playoffs. Here's what's coming up this week around the Western Conference.


Last week: 1-1

This week: vs. Thunder | @Wolves | vs. Mavericks | vs. Cavaliers

The Thunder game Monday is huge, because if the Spurs find a way to win that without Parker, they'll have a two-game lead again with three pretty easy games to end the week. The Wolves and Cavs are atrocious, but Dallas could pose a threat as the Mavs are desperate.


Last week: 4-0

This week: @Spurs | vs. Jazz | vs. Magic | @ Mavericks

What a week for the Thunder. Oklahoma City made up two games on the Spurs in pursuit of the No. 1 seed and can tie San Antonio for first with a win Monday night. OKC would be wise to go ahead and jump the Spurs while Tony Parker is still sidelined, so there's a little cushion when he returns. Spirits have seemed higher recently as the Thunder appears to have recovered from its mid-February swoon. Since that three-game losing streak, OKC has won eight of nine.


Last week: 2-1

This week: vs. Grizzlies | vs. Knicks

It's a light week for the Clippers, but both games will be tough tests. The Grizzlies game could go a long way in deciding who gets the No. 3 seed, while the Knicks are always dangerous. LA better be careful because they're only 2.5 games ahead of losing their home-court advantage for the first round.


Last week: 3-0

This week: @Blazers | @Clippers | @Nuggets | @Jazz

Memphis might be the least talked about team in the NBA, but it doesn't seem to stop the Grizzlies from rolling. The Grizz have won 12 of 13 with the only loss coming in Miami, and appears to be coming together since the Rudy Gay trade. Their current hot streak has brought them within one game of the Clippers for the No. 3 seed, and a date against the Clips in Los Angeles this week will be huge. Overall, it's a tough week coming up for Memphis, with four road games against playoff contenders. We're going to find out just how hot these guys are.


Last week: 4-0

This week: @Suns | vs. Knicks | vs. Grizzlies

The Nuggets have won eight straight games and 13 in a row at home. It sounds incredible, but if the Clippers don't watch out, they could very easily fall into the No. 5 slot while the Grizzles and Nuggets seize control of the third and fourth seeds. A late-week home showdown with Memphis should be an awesome game.


Last week: 2-2

This week: vs. Knicks | vs. Pistons | vs. Bulls | @Rockets

With Utah's tank-job, Golden State's playoff spot is looking safer by the day--but that doesn't mean they're not going downhill, fast. After spending much of the first half battling for home-court, the Warriors are only two games ahead of the Lakers and the No. 8 spot. If they want to turn things around, they've got to take advantage of three straight home games to start this week.


Last week: 1-2

This week: vs. Suns | vs. Wolves | vs. Warriors

The Rockets appear to be exactly who we thought they were: mediocre. They've been treading water just above the .500 mark for most of the season, and appear quite comfy there. However, if they want to make a move, this week's schedule should allow for it. Two cupcake home games and a slumping Warriors squad could easily end in 3-0 for Houston.


Last week: 3-1

This week: @Magic | @Hawks | @Pacers | vs. Kings

The Lakers are making it perfectly clear that they will be participating in this season's playoffs. And it's not that they're really playing excellent basketball as much as the teams above them stink. The collapse of the Warriors and Jazz has been sadly predictable and could easily result in the Lakers chasing the No. 6 or No. 7 seed.


Last week: 0-4

This week: vs. Pistons | @Thunder | vs. Grizzlies

Wow. The Jazz has lost seven of eight with the only win being Charlotte which really doesn't count. The collapse has taken them all the way from at one point the No. 6 seed to now out of the playoffs, looking in. Utah must regroup and refocus and this week would be a huge start. Home wins over the Pistons and Grizzlies are crucial considering they probably won't win in Oklahoma City.


Last week: 2-2

This week: vs. Grizzlies | vs. Knicks | vs. Pistons

Portland is now tied with Dallas, three games back of the No. 8 Lakers. If the Blazers want to get back in this, they'll need to get hot, fast. This young team just doesn't seem to have the depth to contend in the long run.


Last week: 3-0

This week: @Bucks | @Spurs | vs. Cavaliers | vs. Thunder

Right when I was ready to write the Mavs off, they cling to life with a 3-0 week. They're still four games out, but that's certainly possible. As I wrote last week, if the Mavs want a chance at really making a playoff push, it's going to take a winning streak of double-digit games. So far, 3-0.

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