We're only about a quarter of the way through the 2013-14 NBA season, but a fierce battle is already breaking out at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture.
As of right now, there are currently 11 teams in the West with a record of .500 or better. The Golden State Warriors hold the No. 8 spot with a record of 13-10, although the No. 9 Dallas Mavericks have an identical record. The surprising Phoenix Suns are in the No. 7 spot with a 12-9 mark, and while there are questions about whether Jeff Hornacek's young squad can keep it up, they seem pretty legit.
Also in the mix are the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. The Wolves would seem like the team most likely to make a playoff push, but don't count out Kobe Bryant and the Lakers despite some key injures. The Pelicans and Grizzlies also face an uphill battle due to health issues.
At the top of the conference, the Portland Trail Blazers extended their lead to one full game over the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder after an impressive 111-104 win over the fifth-seeded Houston Rockets on Thursday night.
Here are the full West standings:
|Portland Trail Blazers||23||19-4||.826|
|San Antonio Spurs||21||17-4||.810|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||21||17-4||.810|
|Los Angeles Clippers||24||15-9||.625|
|Golden State Warriors||23||13-10||.565|
|New Orleans Pelicans||20||10-10||.500|
|Los Angeles Lakers||21||10-11||.476|
Over in the Eastern Conference, the playoff race is tight, but not exactly fierce. Seven of the eight teams currently in the East playoffs have either lost their last game or are on a losing streak. The top-seeded Indiana Pacers are the only team in the conference to have won their last game.
There are a couple of teams out of the East playoff picture making a charge to get in. The Cleveland Cavaliers have won four of five and are just a half game behind the Chicago Bulls for the eighth seed. Kyrie Irving had arguably his best game of the season in a win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday, scoring 37 points and handing out 11 assists.
Meanwhile, the much-maligned Brooklyn Nets appear to be turning things around. Following an embarrassing 113-83 loss at home to the New York Knicks last week, the Nets have won three games in a row, including an impressive 102-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. Getting healthy has been key to the Nets' revival, as Deron Williams and Paul Pierce both returned from injuries this week.
Here are the full East standings:
|New York Knicks||21||6-15||.286|