The 2013-14 NBA campaign is rapidly winding down, and a number of teams have already clinched spots in the upcoming playoffs.
However, the battles for the final remaining seeds are immensely intriguing and well worth examining as the current season comes to a close. The outcome of these playoff races will likely have a big impact on how the postseason picture shakes out, especially in the Western Conference.
Keep reading for an updated look at the NBA standings, plus check out the latest news on the current playoff race and take a peek at the odds for each contender to win a title.
ESPN and NBA.com
|San Antonio Spurs||3-1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||9-2|
|Los Angeles Clippers||8-1|
|Golden State Warriors||25-1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||33-1|
|New York Knicks||250-1|
Updates on Playoff Races
As you can see, most of the playoff spots in both conferences are locked up. However, there is a bitter, three-team war for the final two seeds in the Western Conference.
The New York Knicks were clinging to the scant hope that they'd be able to sneak into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, but the final nail in their postseason coffin was nailed in on Saturday night following the Atlanta Hawks' 98-85 win over the Miami Heat.
It's the first time in Carmelo Anthony's professional career he isn't in the playoffs, per ESPN's Numbers Never Lie:
Hawks outdo Knicks for playoff berth. For 1st time in Carmelo Anthony's 11-year career he will NOT make NBA playoffs pic.twitter.com/gveCKYxKoI— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) April 13, 2014
The New York Daily News' Frank Isola rued what was a major missed opportunity for the franchise. It really is embarrassing that the Knicks weren't one of the eight best teams in the East:
All kidding aside, this was the year to pick off Miami or Indiana. That the Knicks can't be one of eight playoff teams is embarrassing.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) April 13, 2014
The Dallas Mavericks have a slight advantage at this juncture, needing any combination of wins and losses by the Memphis Grizzlies that add up to three to secure a spot in the playoffs.
“It’s just fun to be a part of. The preparation and adjustments from day to day in the playoffs is a blast. It’s actually very taxing mentally and physically, but it’s also the most fun.”
The Mavericks moved into seventh place with a win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. Despite a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, Dallas has a half-game lead over the Grizzlies.
The Mavs have a hugely important game against the Phoenix Suns on tap this Saturday, a matchup that will determine which of the two competitors earns the tiebreaker over the other.
The Suns dropped out of the top eight in the West with a loss to the Grizzlies on Friday night. It was a massive result for both teams, as Memphis now owns the tiebreaker, per Robert Baum of the Associated Press:
Suns lose at Spurs 112-104, now tied with Memphis for No. 8 spot in West, and Grizzlies have tiebreaker. Both 1 game behind No. 7 Dallas.— Robert Baum (@Thebaumerphx) April 12, 2014
Despite that defeat, head coach Jeff Hornacek deserves plenty of accolades for keeping his relatively inexperienced players focused during this thrilling portion of the season.
Scott Brooks, head coach of the Thunder, had high praise for Hornacek after losing this weekend, as per Matt Petersen of Suns.com:
"You give Coach Hornacek a lot of credit. He has come in here and put a system together and put their players in a position to execute every night…he’s put their team in a position to win night in and night out."
The Suns dropped a heartbreaker to the Mavs on Saturday night. Suns.com's Matt Petersen tweeted out that the defeat has symbolized Phoenix's late-season slide:
ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the players in the locker room were gutted after the loss:
Nothing but devastation in this Suns locker room. Some shattered-looking players after a weekend of close-game torture— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 13, 2014
Phoenix will need help from here on out. No longer does the team control its own destiny.
The Grizzlies do, though, and if they win out, they'll overtake Dallas for the seventh seed, per David Aldridge:
If Memphis wins out, it will finish seventh, ahead of Mavs. Grizz also have tiebreaker over Dallas. That would mean Spurs-Mavs, OKC-MEM.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 13, 2014
Higher seeds in the West have to be hoping that Memphis can get knocked back into ninth place.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney, the Grizz are one of the most dangerous clubs in the conference and could be a real threat to pull off an upset as a No. 7 or 8 seed.
Mahoney noted that Memphis ranks No. 3 in the league in terms of overall defense and described why it is such a feared team in a seven-game series:
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are the NBA’s mortar and pestle — two big, physical inside players who break their opponents down by posting up and boxing out in rhythm. Grappling with either demands energy and strategic resources to the point that it creates a cumulative effect. Their size advantage is one of slow, deliberate gains, with every bump or bruise taking just enough out of the Grizzlies’ opponents to slow their next drive and urge their next defensive mistake. Memphis makes it all add up so that by the fourth quarter every action seems like a chore.
Which team will miss the playoffs?
While the Grizzlies may not even have a first-round matchup, let alone win it, they could severely hurt a contender’s chances at going deep in the playoffs. They will tire them out and make them work hard for every point, characteristics that they will put on full display over the next five games with their season on the line.
Make sure you tune in to the upcoming games for each of these three Western Conference squads, as they promise to deliver some of the best, most intriguing basketball of the season.
|Memphis Grizzlies||at Phoenix Suns||Monday, April 14 at 10 p.m. ET|
|Dallas Mavericks||at Memphis Grizzlies||Wednesday, April 16, at 8 p.m. ET|