As this is being written, the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns all have identical records in the standings. All three teams are sitting at 44-30 in the Western Conference. Due to tie-breakers, the Mavericks are the seventh seed in the conference while Memphis is the eighth. Phoenix finds themselves currently out of the playoffs.
You can expect this to change multiple times over the next two weeks, though. Take this past Sunday for example. Dallas started the day in ninth place. When the day was over, the Mavs had moved up to the No. 7 spot and they didn’t even play a game that day. That’s how close this race is in the Western Conference. If you add the Golden State Warriors to the mix, it gets really dicey. All four teams are separated by 1.5 games and all four are fighting for three playoff spots with eight games to play.
In the final eight games, Dallas has games with each of the three teams they are fighting with in the standings. It starts tonight as the Mavs host the Warriors. A win and the Mavs could draw within a half game from Golden State. It gets even crazier when you realize the last two games of the season are between the Phoenix Suns and the Memphis Grizzlies. The playoff fate of the Mavericks could literally come down to the final game of the regular season.
Dallas has five road games in their final eight. Besides the three games against the Suns, Grizzlies and Warriors, the Mavs have to play the San Antonio Spurs and the LA Clippers as well during this stretch. The Mavs haven’t beaten either team this season, although they should have won all three against the Clippers.
The Warriors still have nine games to play, including tonight’s matchup with the Mavericks. Five of those games will be played on the road including the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trailblazers. The rest of their schedule seems fairly easy.
Memphis, like the Mavericks, doesn’t have an easy road down the stretch. Five of their final eight games are at home, which is good for them. However, they have to play San Antonio, Miami, Phoenix, and Dallas down the stretch. The other four games are against Minnesota, Denver, the Lakers, and the 76ers.
Phoenix has perhaps the toughest road to make it to the post season. Five of their eight games remaining are on the road. The Suns will have to play at Portland, San Antonio and Dallas. They also play at the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. If that wasn’t a tough enough stretch of road games, the Suns will be welcoming the Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder to town.
Obviously, these games have to be played and anything can happen when the ball is put into play. However you analyze it though, this is going to be a great two weeks of basketball. As far as the Mavericks getting into the playoffs, there are a lot of optimistic fans out there.
“I think the Mavs will make the playoffs. You might think I’m nuts but I think they are going to get the sixth seed if the can beat Golden State. They do need to get big stops at the end of games and not allow big shots like the Clippers had.” - Azmi Alzandani
If you’re a fan of playoff basketball, the next eight games are going to be as close to playoff basketball as you can get without actually making it. I would suggest holding on tight because, just like a roller coaster ride, this stretch of games is going to be up and down and bring every emotion you have to light. In the end, though, hopefully we will look back and say, “That was fun. Let’s do it again.”
Photo courtesy Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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