With the regular season ending April 17, NBA playoff bubble teams will have to buckle down now more than ever.
While the Western Conference is tighter than the less competitive Eastern Conference, the playoff picture isn’t finalized just yet on either side.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz are fighting for the eighth seed in the West, while the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers cling to life. The Milwaukee Bucks are 36-38 in the East, but they hold a six-game lead over the ninth-place Philadelphia 76ers.
Twelve teams have already clinched a playoff spot in the NBA. The following teams are hoping to overcome the odds and do the same.
Trading away Andre Iguodala and Nikola Vucevic (among other pieces) in exchange for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson was not seen as a bad trade for the Philadelphia 76ers. However, Bynum hasn’t played a single minute for the Sixers this season, which has crippled their chances at a playoff berth.
Philly hasn’t been eliminated from a mathematical standpoint, but the outlook is bleak.
There is only so much a breakout year from Jrue Holiday could do for this undermanned Sixers squad. Doug Collins has done his best to keep this team competitive, but they’ll need a miracle to grab the eighth seed in the East.
Not only would Philadelphia have to string together a phenomenal finish, but the Milwaukee Bucks would also have to suffer a colossal collapse. Losing to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats behind a putrid 2-of-24 shooting performance from Holiday is not a good sign.
Playoff Odds: 0.5 percent
The Trail Blazers are sputtering through a six-game losing streak and are 2-8 in their past 10 games.
They have talented pieces with LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Hickson, but their second unit averages just 13 minutes and 17.7 points per game (lowest in the league).
With such a huge workload for the Portland starters, especially for Lillard (who has never played a grueling 82-game season before), it was only a matter of time before this team ran out of gas.
Six of their seven remaining games are against Western Conference foes over .500. The one game against a team below .500 is a matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.
At least Lillard winning Rookie of the Year will be an acceptable consolation prize for Trail Blazers fans.
Playoff Odds: 0.5 percent
A 20-point blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday was a crushing blow to the Dallas Mavericks’ playoff hopes.
With a guy like Dirk Nowitzki on the roster, a winning culture becomes a formality. However, Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of the season rehabbing from knee surgery.
Dallas may have the easiest schedule remaining of the Western Conference bubble teams. It has to face the Denver Nuggets two more times, but the Mavs will have five matchups with sub-.500 teams.
The schedule is in the Mavericks’ favor, but they’re on the outside looking in and couldn’t dispose of the Lakers earlier this week (which really would have helped them).
It will take a massive effort from Nowitzki and his beard for the Mavericks to make the playoffs in 2013. If they fail to do so, it will be the first time Dallas has missed the playoffs since 2000.
Playoff Odds: 9.5 percent
The Utah Jazz surprised many by standing pat at the trade deadline in 2013. Even though Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both in the final year of their contracts, the Jazz decided to keep both guys for a run at the playoffs.
In the final stretch of the regular season, the Jazz managed to lose four games in a row two separate times in the month of March. Utah’s road woes have been a major reason for that. The Jazz are just 11-27 away from home.
A recent five-game win streak vaulted Utah back into the playoff picture, but a home loss to the Denver Nuggets snapped that streak and bumped the Jazz back to ninth place in the West.
The good news? Three of Utah’s six remaining games will be played at home (where the Jazz are 28-10).
The bad news? One of the home games is against the Oklahoma City Thunder, while two road games are against the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.
Playoff Odds: 40 percent
Although the Lakers have looked downright abysmal at times this season, some NBA fans are buying in to the conspiracy theory that Lakerland is scripted to be playoff-bound.
It seems ridiculous, but the video above is worth watching. The phantom foul call at the 3:10 mark is particularly egregious.
This Lakers team is better than what it has displayed to this point in the season, but remaining games against the Grizzlies, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Spurs and Rockets won't be easy.
If Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard can continue to play together, they still have a great shot at nabbing that eighth seed. When it comes right down to it, it's difficult to pick against the winning pedigree of Bryant.
Playoff Odds: 50 percent
The two-headed monster of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis has led the way for the Bucks. Those two guards have combined to score 37.1 points per game so far this season.
Throw in trade-deadline acquisition J.J. Redick and the breakout performance from Larry Sanders, who is second in the league in blocks at 2.9 per game, and the Bucks have a solid all-around roster.
Sure, they may be destined for a four-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat, but they have just about locked up a playoff spot.
Playoff Odds: 99.5 percent