The NBA season is winding down in a hurry. Although most teams have locked up playoff berths, they continue jockeying for position heading into postseason action.
Many teams still have plenty to gain, while others have lots to lose over the final stretch of the season.
Let's take a look at some current trends and how they affect teams involved to determine which playoff contenders are in the best shape and which may be in some trouble going forward.
Here's a look at how the NBA standings currently look:
|NBA Standings (through April 9)|
|1. San Antonio||60||18||0.769||-||31-8||29-10||36-12||11-3||L1||8-2|
|2. Oklahoma City||57||21||0.731||3||32-7||25-14||35-15||11-5||W2||7-3|
|3. L.A. Clippers||55||24||0.696||5.5||32-7||23-17||34-15||11-4||L1||7-3|
|6. Golden St.||48||29||0.623||11.5||26-13||22-16||28-19||10-5||W2||7-3|
Now, down to business.
The battle atop the Eastern Conference continues to be intriguing.
The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat continue to fight for home-court advantage. The interesting thing here is that it seems neither club is putting its best foot forward.
Miami began to surge, winning five of six games from the end of March into the beginning of April. However, the team has looked stagnant since.
An 88-87 loss to Brooklyn at home followed by a 107-102 loss on a road trip to Memphis does not instill confidence in this team heading into the postseason.
Yes, the absence of Dwyane Wade plays a part here. Even LeBron James expressed his concern regarding the team's health during an interview with Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
"I want to get healthy. That's all that we care about, man, going into the postseason healthy. We got more problems as far as health issues than the number-one seed," he said.
With the playoffs just over a week away, this comes as a major concern. Not only do the Heat stand to lose their contention for the top spot, but entering the playoffs at less than full strength is far from ideal.
Luckily for the Heat, Indiana hasn't exactly been doing its part to secure the top seed.
Having now lost seven of its last 10 games, Indiana seems to be saving its worst basketball for last.
The team is simply not clicking right now, losing games that should have resulted in rather easy victories. C.J. Watson's absence surely hurt this team. However, when he does get back on the court, he'll likely be on a pitch count.
Both of these teams have plenty to gain, as securing home-court advantage goes a long way. They must also get healthy, though.
If these two powerhouses can't rebound in time, they could make early exits from the playoffs due to the recent surging play of Toronto and Chicago.
The big fight for position in the Western Conference is at the bottom of the projected postseason standings.
With four teams—No. 6 Golden State, No. 7 Dallas, No. 8 Phoenix and Memphis—within 2.5 games of each other, the end of the season could provide plenty of changes here.
Each of these teams has been playing very well of late—they all hold winning records over their last 10 games played.
Obviously, the first priority here is to ensure a postseason berth. However, low-end seeding becomes a huge factor as well.
San Antonio and Oklahoma City figure to be the top two seeds entering the playoffs. Finishing at No. 7 or No. 8 does not provide the best chances of advancing further into postseason play.
Golden State has the most to lose in this scenario, as it currently holds the No. 6 seed. If the season ended on Thursday, the Warriors would face off against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.
The team with the most to gain here is Memphis. The Grizzlies are on the outside looking in right now and a playoff berth—even as the eighth seed—is better than ending the season empty-handed.
Dallas and Phoenix are playing well, riding four-and three-game winning streaks, respectively. They'll be tough to catch, but Memphis is surely poised to make things interesting.