The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Triple Double: Examining the Western Conference bubble teams

    We’ve almost reached the end of the NBA regular season, which of course means basketball isn’t even close to ending. The marathon playoff schedule will take us well into June, but it seems like a good time to evaluate the playoff chances of some of the teams fighting for the lower seeds in the Western Conference.

    I wrote two weeks ago about the futility of making the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed, but eight teams do still make it. So without further ado, let’s take a look at a few teams that hope to go on a magical postseason run.

    Dallas Mavericks
    The defending champs currently sit in seventh place in the conference, a dramatic fall from last season. The Mavericks have looked old and slow at times this season, but as long as they have Dirk Nowitzki, they will be a dangerous team to meet in the playoffs.

    But they have to make the playoffs first. With four games left, they are 1.5 games in front of Houston and two in front of Utah. I think they will make the playoffs, but without the rugged interior defense Tyson Chandler provided last year and the core guys all being a year older, I do not see them winning a playoff series.

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    Denver Nuggets
    The Nuggets are in sixth place, a half game in front of Dallas, after a huge victory over Houston Monday night. This is the team that I could see spoiling a higher seed’s playoff aspirations.

    They have two very good point guards in Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, who collectively average 25.8 points and 13.2 assists per game. They have size and athleticism in the frontcourt with the enigmatic JaVale McGee, he of the 2.2 blocks per game. They lead the league in scoring at 103.6 points per game.

    Perhaps most important to the team’s chances is the health of forward Wilson Chandler, who returned to the team a month ago after playing in China. Chandler is a proven scorer when healthy but is currently battling a hip injury. If he gets healthy for the playoffs, it adds even more offensive firepower to a team already full of it. Watch out for the Nuggets.

    Houston Rockets
    This is a team that could pose a problem for just one team in my mind: the Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets have the frontcourt size to combat the Lakers’ duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby are an excellent combination of inside scoring, rebounding and defense.

    As for their chances against other top Western Conference teams, I don’t see the Rockets being able to topple the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers. If they could work their way up the standings and get a matchup with the Lakers, things could get very interesting.

    Phoenix Suns
    This is the team I’m not rooting for to make the playoffs. Steve Nash is still one of the greatest players in the league to watch play. It’s art in motion to watch Nash play point guard. He can shoot, he’s an incredible passer and his basketball instincts and IQ are off the charts.

    Besides wanting to watch Nash play at least four playoff games, I have no reason to root for the Suns. I don’t think they can win against anyone. Nash’s supporting cast is not nearly as strong as it’s been in the past, although Marcin Gortat has had a breakout campaign.

    So to sum up, Steve Nash is awesome. Go Steve Nash!

    Utah Jazz
    Sorry guys, no chance here. “Big Love” was a great show though.

    I see the Nuggets, Rockets and Mavericks as the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds respectively. The Rockets have the easiest schedule left, with two games against the Hornets and one against the Warriors. But the Nuggets have the best chance to do some damage against the class of the conference.

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    Triple Double: Examining the Western Conference bubble teams