Which teams have inside track for NBA playoffs?

Which teams have inside track for NBA playoffs?
February 27, 2013, 5:15 pm
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The NBA season is nearing the stretch run with about 25 games left to play in the regular season. As it stands, there are four teams vying for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference. Which teams have the easiest road to make the postseason? We break down each team's remaining schedule.

Los Angeles Lakers

Current Record: 28-30

Western Conference Standings: Ninth

Games Left: 24

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 12 (six home, six road)

The Lakers have the most balanced schedule among the four teams competing for the final three playoff spots. Los Angeles has an equal number of home and road games, and neither schedule looks too daunting the rest of the way out.

There are six games against playoff teams left on the home schedule, but it also holds games against Minnesota, Toronto, Sacramento and New Orleans. It washes out with an opponents record just four games over .500.

On the road, the Lakers face an equal number of playoff teams as not, but once again, the non playoff teams are at the bottom of the league.

The biggest hurdle for the Lakers will be the final week of the season. People have been pointing to the last game of the season at home against Houston, but that’s the end of a tough three game home stand. The Lakers have Golden State and San Antonio before they face the Rockets.

Houston Rockets

Current Record: 31-27

Conference Standings: Eighth

Games Left: 24 (14 home, 10 road)

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 10 (seven home, three road)

The Rockets have a favorable schedule heading into the homestretch. With 14 home games, including a seven game homestand coming up in March, the Rockets could be in position for a very strong finish into the playoffs. There are still 10 games against playoff teams, but that is counterbalanced by eight games against teams at least 20 games under .500, including four games with Phoenix.

Also in the Rockets favor is the ease of their road schedule from here on out. Only three of the Rockets games against playoff teams will be away from the Toyota Center, and the aggregate record of Houston’s road opponents is 55 games below .500.

Utah Jazz

Current Recod: 31-26

Conference Standings: Seventh

Games Left: 25 (13 home, 12 road)

Games vs Playoff Teams: 14 (6 home, 8 road)

Utah’s schedule is the most difficult of the teams fighting at the bottom of the playoff race in the Western Conference. Despite having more home games than road ones remaining, the Jazz will face eight teams currently in the playoffs outside of Salt Lake City, including Oklahoma City, Houston and San Antonio. Insert home games in with Memphis and New York between OKC and Houston and that’s a very tough five game stretch.  

The flip side to the tough road argument is that the caliber of teams traveling to Utah isn’t very challenging.  Memphis, Denver and Oklahoma City are the only Western Conference playoff teams that still have games in Utah. Even mixing in Eastern playoff teams Atlanta, New York and Brooklyn into the home schedule, the aggregate record of Jazz home opponents is still 20 games under .500.

Golden State Warriors

Current Record: 33-24

Confrerence Stadings: Sixth

Games Remaining: 25 (16 home, nine road)

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 11 (seven home, four road)

If there is a schedule to rival the Rockets for easiest the rest of the way then it belongs to Golden State. The Warriors play 16 of their final 25 games at home, with just as many of those games against teams at least 10 games under .500 (seven) as there are against playoff teams.

That should provide a nice buffer for a road schedule won’t be easy despite how few games there are. Golden State still has to make a swing east to New York and Boston, as well as head down to Texas to face Houston and San Antonio. But sprinkled in between those games are the likes of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Phoenix.

If Golden State can stay healthy, the Warriors will be difficult to catch for the Rockets.