I blogged Monday about the top five teams in the NBA’s Western Conference and how they were likely to finish. My best guess:
1. San Antonio 61-21; 2. Oklahoma City 60-22; 3. Denver 58-24; 4. Memphis 57-25; 5. LA Clippers 56-26.
But what about the next three seeds? Let’s examine the schedule of the remaining playoff contenders in the West.
* Warriors 41-31: Sacramento, Portland, New Orleans, at Phoenix, Utah, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, at LA Lakers, San Antonio, at Portland.
So there’s three easy home games (Kings, Hornets, Timberwolves); two tough home games (Thunder, Spurs); two home games against fellow contenders (Blazers, Jazz); one easy road game (Suns); and two road games against fellow contenders.
Let’s say Golden State sweeps the easy home games and splits the other four home games, wins at Phoenix and loses the road games at LA and Portland. That’s 7-3, for a 48-34 finish. (Heck of a season, by the way.)
* Rockets 39-31: Indiana, at Memphis, LA Clippers, Orlando, at Sacramento, at Portland, at Denver, Phoenix, Memphis, Sacramento, at Phoenix, at LA Lakers.
Three tough home games (Pacers, Clips, Grizzlies); two tough road games (Grizzlies, Nuggets); two road games against fellow contenders (Blazers, Lakers); three easy home games; and two easy road games.
Let’s say Houston goes 2-1 at home against the tough guys, loses the four road games against contenders or better; sweeps the easy home games and easy road games. That’s 7-5, for a 46-36 finish. (Another stellar year.)
* Lakers 36-35: at Minnesota, at Milwaukee, at Sacramento, Dallas, Memphis, at LA Clippers, New Orleans, at Portland, Golden State, San Antonio, Houston.
That’s two easy road games, two road games against fellow playoff scroungers (Bucks, Blazers), two tough home games (Grizzlies, Spurs), one tough road game (Clippers), one easy home game and three home games against fellow contenders (Mavs, Warriors, Rockets).
Let’s say the Lakers win the easy road games and easy home game, win at home against the fellow contenders, loses on the road against like-level teams, split the tough home games and loses to the Clippers. That’s 7-4 for a 43-39 finish.
* Jazz 35-36: Phoenix, at Portland, Brooklyn, Portland, Denver, New Orleans, at Golden State, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, at Minnesota, at Memphis.
That’s three easy home games (Suns, Hornets, Wolves), two tough home games (Nuggets, Thunder), two home games against fellow teams (Blazers, Nets), one tough road game (Grizzlies), one easy road game (Wolves) and two road games against like teams (Warriors, Blazers).
Give Utah a split of the tough home games and wins in the rest of its home games; a road win at Minnesota and losses on all other road games. That’s 7-4, for a 42-40 finish.
* Mavericks 35-36: Indiana, Chicago, at LA Lakers, at Denver, at Sacramento, at Portland, Phoenix, Denver, at New Orleans, Memphis, New Orleans.
That’s three tough home games (Pacers, Nuggets, Grizzlies), one home game against a fellow-type contender (Bulls) and two easy home games (Suns, Hornets). Two easy road game (Kings, Hornets), one tough road game (Nuggets) and two road games against like foes (Lakers, Blazers).
Let’s say Dallas goes 2-1 in its tough home games, wins the other three home games, wins the easy road games and loses the other three road games. That’s 7-4, for a 42-40 finish.
* Blazers 33-37: Brooklyn, Utah, at Golden State, at Utah, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, LA Lakers, Oklahoma City, at Denver, at LA Clippers, Golden State.
Killer finishing schedule. No easy teams left. Everyone of them in the playoffs or in contention. But eight of the 12 are at home. On the road, it’s two tough games (Nuggets, Clippers) and two fellow contenders (Warriors, Jazz). At home, it’s two tough teams (Grizzlies, Thunder) and six fellow contender types (Nets, Jazz, Rockets, Mavs, Lakers, Warriors).
So give Portland all losses on the road, a split of the two tough home games and a sweep (hard to do, but that’s what I’ve done for everyone else) of the rest. That’s 7-5, for a 40-42 finish.
So the most likely finish of the Rest of the West: 6. Warriors 48-34; 7. Rockets 46-36; 8. Lakers 43-39; 9. Jazz 42-40; 9. Mavericks 42-40; 11. Trail Blazers 40-42.
Which would mean these playoff pairings:
Spurs vs. Lakers; Grizzlies vs. Clippers; Nuggets vs. Warriors; Thunder vs. Rockets.
Should be fun.