Wild Wild West

As the final week of the NBA season approaches, there is a virtual bloodbath to obtain the 8th and final playoff spot currently occupied by the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are currently 1/2 a game ahead of the Portland Trailblazers who occupy the 9th spot, 1.5 games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs who occupy the 10th spot, and 1.5 games up on the league’s hottest team in the Phoenix Suns. The big question to be decided in almost a Game of Thrones fashion is who will be the 8th seed?

The Grizzlies’ final two games are against beasts from the East in the form of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. The Grizzlies may get lucky against the Bucks in that the Bucks may rest players before the start of the playoffs. The Celtics meanwhile, may also rest players. However, should both the Bucks and the Celtics play their starters, the Grizzlies may have the hardest road ahead of them to make the playoffs. The Portland Trailblazers are hot on the Grizzlies’ heels and play their final 2 games against the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets. The Mavericks may give the Blazers problems but the Blazers shouldn’t have too hard a time against the Brooklyn Nets.

The San Antonio Spurs who are currently in the aforementioned 10th spot play their final two games against the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz. Unfortunately for the Spurs, the Rockets and Jazz will most likely play all their starters given that both teams are vying for playoff positions. Last but most certainly not least, the red hot Phoenix Suns are also 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot and sit in the 11 position.

The Suns have 3 games left in which they will play the Oklahoma City Thunder, the injured Philadelphia 76ers, and the Dallas Mavericks to close out the season. They are 5-0 thus far and all 3 of their final games are winnable. The hardest of the 3 will presumably be against the Mavs. But again this depends on whether the Mavericks sit players before the playoffs. The Suns bright young stars in Booker and Ayton have their destiny in their own hands. Ayton should pound Philadelphia on the inside in their match up given that Joel Embiid will most likely not play. The 76ers will play all their starters as they are vying for playoff positioning. This may make life hard for the Suns. The Suns match up well against the Thunder too. So if they can win out, the Suns have a great chance.

Anything is possible in these scenarios. The Grizzlies have been playing the least stellar basketball of all these teams, thereby allowing the Blazers, Spurs, and Suns get within striking range. A key contributor of theirs in Jaren Jackson Jr is out for the rest of the season and the Grizzlies’ youth is really showing at the worst time possible. Ja Morant will need to prove that he is a true leader if the Memphis Grizzlies are going to make the NBA Playoffs.

In contrast, the Portland Trailblazers have hit their stride with Damian Lillard having poured in 51 points in a Sunday night win against the 76ers. Carmelo Anthony has also been contributing and just became the 15th leading scorer in NBA history. Additionally, the Blazers have the luxury of having both Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside. CJ McCollum and Gary Trent Jr have also been solid contributors for the Blazers. Portland, like Phoenix is giving everything they got and it’s great basketball to watch.

Who comes out of the blood bath is anyone’s guess but it will be definitely basketball to watch.

Enjoy the games.

PS. Lakers’ fans want them to play anyone but the Portland Trailblazers in the first round.