Often times the majority of the playoff picture is decided long before the end of the season draws near. However, with most teams only playing about ten more games the Western Conference playoff scene change drastically before the end of the regular season is finally here.
As expected, the Los Angeles Lakers are the #1 seed in the West. As for the other seven playoff teams, while the names are unlikely to change, the final positions are up for grabs still. With roughly ten games remaining for most teams the final seven playoff spots in the West are all separated by just four games.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Denver Nuggets would be the #2 seed, the Dallas Mavericks the #3, and the Utah Jazz the #4 (due to the tie-breaker) even though they all have the same record. The Phoenix Suns sit 1½ games behind those three teams at the 5th seed with the Oklahoma City Thunder 1½ games behind them at the #6 position. Sitting at the 7th seed are the San Antonio Spurs thanks to winning a tie-breaker with the Portland Trailblazers. Technically, the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets are still alive sitting 5 and 6½ games behind the #8 seeded Trailblazers, but let’s be real- those guys are done.
Where this gets interesting is in who will actually end up playing who in the first round. Often times the opening match-ups can really set the pace for the rest of the playoffs with lower seeded teams having something to prove and often having a leg up on some of their higher seeded opponents.
For example, if the Mavericks were to move up to the #2 seed and the Trailblazers the #7, Dallas may be looking at another first round exit, something they have done in two of the last three NBA seasons. Portland has had Dallas’s number this year winning all three games this season, most recently a game Thursday night at the Rose Garden, 101-89.
Few teams probably want to play the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not expected to be contenders at the start of the season with such a young and inexperienced roster (10 0f 14 players have been in the NBA for 3 years or less), the Thunder have thrived behind the dominate play of Kevin Durant and the vastly improved second year player, Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder is playing well right now having won 8 of their last 12. If they can continue their winning ways in the next few days when they face off against other playoff contenders (Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Portland Trailblazers) they will no doubt strike fear in the hearts of the other playoff bound teams.
San Antonio has been a team in transition, but they have not forgotten what it is like to be in the playoffs. Even though these guys are vastly different then past San Antonio playoff teams, the core is still there and ready to compete.
Phoenix is always a tough team to play. No one scores quite like they do. On the season they average over 110 points a game. However, of the playoff bound teams no one gives up points like them either (106/ game).
Beer: However the playoff match-ups end up there is one thing for certain- there will be some great basketball to watch while enjoying a few beers with friends. I would highly recommend a beer from Humboldt County (not made with another thing that Humboldt County is known for). Jamaica Red Ale from the Mad River Brewing Company in Blue Lake, California is a treat for hop lovers especially. The spicy hop aroma hits you as the bitterness lingers with the malt adding a nice caramel base. At 6.8% ABV Jamaica Red Ale will make you feel pretty good without putting you over the edge.