As the NBA regular season begins its final stretch, a lot of important questions come up. Here is a look at three of the biggest ones that will all have a huge impact going forward this season.
Who will make the 8 seed in the West?
The Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Pelicans are all in a race for the final seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. As of now the Grizzlies hold the spot, but have the most difficult remaining schedule in basketball with a combined win percentage of .555. Portland is only three games out, but with Damian Lillard sidelined for the next few games, the Blazers may find themselves too far out of contention by the time he returns. It would take a massive effort from the Blazers who have struggled with injuries all season to make a run at the final spot, though they do have the talent, experience and leadership needed to make it happen.
The Spurs were in a dive just before the All-Star break and they won’t recover in time to catch Memphis, likely ending San Antonio’s record of 22 straight playoff appearances. The Pelicans may be the best positioned to make a run at catching the Grizzlies. The addition of Zion Williamson has been a huge boost for New Orleans, who have the third weakest remaining schedule in the NBA. If the Pelicans are able to catch Memphis, it may come down their two head to head matchups later on the season. The young Grizzlies team is good, but don’t be shocked to see the Pelicans swoop in to give us a first-round series featuring LeBron James and Williamson.
Will the Bucks win 70 games?
The Bucks currently have a record of 48-8 putting them on pace for a 70-win season. The Bucks feast on lesser teams and have an NBA best 33-1 record against teams below .500. However, Milwaukee has the sixth-toughest remaining schedule with their opponents’ combined winning percentage of over .500 and with 14 of 27 games being on the road. The Bucks have to go on the road to play the Lakers, Nuggets, Heat, Celtics, 76ers and twice to the Raptors in their final stretch of the season. In other words, the Bucks have to go and play the best home teams in the league as they close out the season.
Its definitely possible, but with such a difficult remaining schedule against teams that are fighting for playoff spots, 70 wins aren’t happening. Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff spot and will still cruise to the best record in the league regardless, so it’s more likely the Bucks rest their stars before the playoffs rather than scrap for the 70-win mark.
Will the Lakers hold on to the West’s 1 seed?
The Lakers sit at the top of their Conference with a record of 43-12. But will a 5 game lead over Denver be enough to secure their spot? Los Angeles is the second-best in the league against teams below .500 with a record of 27-2, and have 15 of their 27 games remaining against teams below .500. The Lakers also seem to be coming together at the right time. In the month of February they’ve averaged season highs in assists per game (28.1) and field goal percentage (50.9 percent) which are signs that the team is starting to gel more consistently.
With good teams like the Bucks, Raptors and Clippers coming to Denver and a majority of their remaining games being on the road, the Nuggets aren’t catching the Lakers. The Clippers were also thought to have a chance to snatch the top seed but a recent slide and string of injuries all while trying to integrate new pieces to their team will most likely keep them out of the top two spots.
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