With the final week of NBA games now looming and the final spot in the western playoffs still up for grabs, it’s time to start looking forward to the second season. The Utah Jazz and LA Lakers are battling it out for that final seed, with Utah holding onto a 1/2 game lead with just one more win than the Lakers. Let’s take a look at each teams remaining schedule to see who has the best shot of sneaking into the postseason.
The Utah Jazz: 41-37
4 remaining Games: They own the tiebreaker against the Lakers.
1. Tonight they host OKC @ 9:00 PM: While this is a home game, it’s obviously a mismatch for the Jazz who may drop a game here to one of the NBA’s elite. The Thunder will be hungry for a win after a loss to the Knicks in their last outing as they sit just a single game behind the Spurs for the top seed in the West. How will the Jazz cover Russell Westrbook in this game? They have done a good job containing him so far this year as he is averaging nearly 7 turnovers a game against the Jazz this season. How they limit him will be the key to getting a big win. Utah has 2 of 3 so far this season to the Thunder.
2. Friday April 12th 9:00 PM vs. Minny: The first half of a home and home against the Twolves, the Jazz should absolutely take care of business here against a far inferior opponent. They have won both matchups so far this season.
3. Monday April 15th @Minny 8:00 PM: Not much to add here, the second half of the home and home is another must win for the Jazz.
4. Wednesday April 17th @Memphis 8:00 PM: A very tough road game here as the Grizzlies are in a fight for playoff seeding themselves (they are currently one game back of home court in the first round). The Jazz have lost two of three to Memphis but did win their last matchup 90-84 on march 16th.
Overall, I see the Jazz going 2-2, but have a good chance at 3-1. I can’t see them beating the Thunder who have a lot to play for and are a better team, but they may be able to take the game from Memphis, especially if Memphis’ seeding has been locked in by that point. Memphis may rest their players in that case opening the door for the Jazz to sneak in another victory, but if they still need a win themselves, I would doubt a tough nosed Grizzlies team loses on its home floor in such a case. The Jazz need to win against the Twolves and I believe they will. Rubio and the gang have a chance to play post season spoilers, so don’t expect them to rollover though.
Since they hold the Tiebreaker, they have an excellent shot at beating out the Lakes here.
LA Lakers: 40-37
5 games reaming
1. Tonight vs. New Orleans 10:30 PM: A must win for the Lakers, I don’t expect this game to be close. Look for the Lakers to dominate the paint with Gasol and Howard. The only shot NO has in my opinion is if Ryan Anderson gets red hot from downtown, forcing Gasol out of his comfort zone in the paint and out to the perimeter.
2. Wednesday April 10th @ Portland 10:00 PM: Just because Portland will be on the outside looking in at the playoffs doesn’t mean the won’t want to spoil one of their rivals chances at getting in. I expect this to be a hotly contested battle with Damian Lillard and Kobe in scoring duel. This game is a real toss up for me.
3. Friday April 12th vs. Golden State 10:30 PM: Another toss up, this game will be close, but I think Golden State, as the better team comes away with a crushing victory.
4. Sunday April 14th vs. San Antonio 9:30 PM: San Antonio should win this game as long as they still have a shot at the 1st overall seed. LA will need to win every other game they play to be able to stomach a loss here, but I don’t see that happening.
5. Wednesday April 17th, vs. Houston 10:30 PM: Could this be Dwight Howard’s last game as a Laker? I think so regardless of a win or loss.
For a realistic shot at the postseason, especially since the Jazz hold the tiebreaker, the Lakers need to go 4-1. I see them going 3-2 despite 4 of the 5 remaining games being played in Staples center. If the Jazz really falter they could sneak in, but I doubt it. This just wasn’t a good season for the purple and gold…
My prediction: The Jazz hold onto the 8th seed…only to go on to lose in 5 games to the top team.