Mar 30, 2010, 5:25 PM EDT
Nobody out West has the cushy ride that Miami does the rest of the way this season. That is the Hummer stretch limo of easy paths to the playoffs.
But out in the West, where 1.5 games separate seeds two to five, and just 4.5 separate two seed Dallas to the eighth seeded Spurs, every little advantage helps.
And the Jazz and Suns have that advantage.
NBA.com broke down the remaining schedules for the teams out West, and suddenly Jazz is sounding good. Utah sits just a half a game back of Dallas for second overall, but they have just four games remaining against teams over .500 this season, while the Mavericks have six. The remaining Dallas teams combined have a winning percentage of .532, Utah just .504. Dallas plays two more games, but against quality opponents that could be trouble.
Then again the Suns could beat them both out. Just one game back of Utah, they have a slightly easier route. While they play six teams over .500, the overall winning percentage of teams remaining on their schedule is .499.
Utah may well get that two seed, and the three is not out of the question for the Suns (although Dallas will not lose a lot of games from here on out, they are playing well). Those three teams are in a dogfight.
Denver will have a hard time moving up out of the four/five spot — they have the hardest schedule remaining out West. They play six teams over .500, one below, and the teams left have a winning percentage of .584. That is tough sledding. The Lakers have a pretty balanced schedule — four home, four road, opponent winning percentage of .504 — but despite their sporadic play lately their lead is too big for someone to dislodge them from the top seed.
In the bottom few spots in the West, don’t be shocked to see Portland move up a little. Maybe to sixth. They have the easiest schedule left of any team in the West, an opponent winning percentage of .498.
The currently eighth-seeded Spurs may have a hard time moving out of that slot and avoiding the Lakers in the first round — they have the second toughest schedule left, seven teams left over .500, just two below.
It all shakes out well for the Jazz, a franchise that believes if it gets home court and avoids the Lakers it can reach the conference Finals. They may be in for a shock there. But they could get the two seed.
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