A win for the San Antonio Spurs over the Oklahoma City Thunder pushed their lead in the Western Conference to two games, but, more importantly, raised some serious questions about whether anybody's going to be able to take them down this year.
San Antonio didn't struggle with Tony Parker hurt, as they've won three of four since losing their All-Star guard. They didn't struggle with Tim Duncan scoring an inefficient 13 points on 14 shots. Instead, their second-tier guys stepped up against last year's Western Conference Champions, and behind Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, they silenced the Thunder, winning, 105-93, after leading by as much as 18. The Thunder can obviously still make a run at the top slot -- they're only back two games with 18 to go -- but they'll need San Antonio to lose for that to happen.
On the other side of the playoff ladder, the Utah Jazz earned a win over the Detroit Pistons, which pushed them back into a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot. The struggling Jazz had lost four in a row going into the game to drop out of the spot, while the Lakers had a little bit of a resurgence with a three-game winning streak. It's not a good situation for Utah: just as they got Mo Williams and Al Jefferson back from injury, Paul Millsap will miss time with swelling in his knee and quads. The NBA's passion for narrative will surely be interested in whether or not Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard can fight their way into the playoffs, but it depends just as much on whether or not Utah can win games down the stretch.
Elsewhere in the West on Monday night, a win by Golden State put them a game and a half ahead of Houston for the sixth spot, while Denver's ninth straight win has them just a game behind Memphis for the fourth spot.
Here's a look at the full conference standings:
|San Antonio Spurs||64||49-15||.766|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||64||47-17||.734|
|Los Angeles Clippers||65||45-20||.692|
|Golden State Warriors||65||36-29||.554|
|Los Angeles Lakers||64||33-31||.516|
|Portland Trail Blazers||62||29-33||.468|
|New Orleans Hornets||64||22-42||.344|
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