The race for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference is getting tighter as the season comes to a close. Many people are anxious to see whether the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets or the Los Angeles Lakers will earn the final spots in the playoffs. These three teams have been vying for position in the playoffs for nearly the entire season. The Rockets and Jazz have constantly swapped spots in the seventh and eighth positions over the duration of the year. The Lakers recently improved their play tremendously by finally getting their win percentage at .500. This could be a great battle heading into the ladder part of the season.
As of now, the Rockets have the best record among the three teams. At 33-29, the Rockets are sitting at the number seven spot in the Western Conference. The young and exciting trio of James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin has formed a resurgence in Houston. The Rockets are the youngest team in the NBA but that does not stop them from going out and competing every night. Houston is tied for the league lead in scoring at 107.0 points per contest. If the Rockets continue to play at the level that they are, they could make the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season. With the potent offense that Houston possesses, it would not be a surprise to see them in the playoffs.
The Jazz(32-29) are probably the most unforeseen team out of the three. Coming into the season, nobody was expecting the Utah Jazz to be a force in the West at all. The Jazz are shocking many people because if the playoffs started right now, Utah would be there! They are currently in the eighth spot in the West and are only a 1/2 game back from Houston. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are the big men that dominate the inside game for the Jazz. With a strong supporting cast, which consists of players that provide instant offense such as Gordon Hayward and Randy Foye, Utah is making a strong push to play in the postseason.
Kobe Bryant and company are trying their best to make it to the playoffs. Although the Lakers have had some trouble getting this season to go in the right direction, they have managed to make it to .500. At 31-31, the Lakers are in the ninth spot in the Western Conference and are just 1.5 games behind the Jazz for eighth place. Kobe Bryant has been on a tear lately. At times, the Lakers have been down in games and Kobe has single-handedly led the team to victory in those games. In fact, the Lakers were down by 25 points against the Hornets last night but Kobe would not accept defeat. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter(42 points total), while leading the Lakers on a 20-0 run at the end of the game to ensure a 108-102 win for LA. Performances such as last night have earned Kobe the nickname”Vino”, which is Spanish or Italian wine and also the name that Kobe has acquired because like wine, he seems to get better as he ages. If Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and the other talented players on the Lakers develop the urgency for a postseason run like Kobe has, the Lakers might be able to sneak into the playoffs.
Only time will tell which teams will make the playoffs. Houston is scoring points and knocking down three-pointers at will. Utah seems to be a gritty team that has adopted the underdog status of the NBA. The Lakers started out the season as a huge disappointment but seem to be getting the season back on track. Two teams are going to get in the playoffs and one team will be left in the dust. Who will it be? There are about twenty games left in the regular season and a lot can happen during that time. This could be a thrilling finish!