NBA playoff picture: Jazz win knocks Lakers out of bracket, Clippers fall behind Nuggets

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The Western Conference playoff races will make for an exciting finish to the regular season as key playoff spots near the top and the bottom of the standings remain tight.

The Los Angeles Lakers sat idle on Friday night, forced to watch the Western Conference playoff spot they have been working so hard to secure slip away as the Utah Jazz rallied to beat the Portland Trail Blazers.

While the Jazz and Lakers are technically tied with identical 37-36 records, the early-season sins of the Lakers continue to haunt as the Jazz won the season series (2-1) thanks to a pair of wins in early November and December.

Both teams are in action on Saturday night as the Lakers visit the Sacramento Kings and the Jazz host the Brooklyn Nets. Utah plays current playoff teams in six of their remaining nine games, while the Lakers have five games left against playoff teams.

Meanwhile, in the battle for home court advantage in the West, the Los Angeles Clippers fell victim to Tim Duncan and the Spurs and dropped behind the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. The Nuggets had a drama-free win over the Brooklyn Nets as they continue playing like an elite contender down the stretch.

Both teams are even in the loss column but the Clippers have nine games remaining compared to Denver's eight. That will even up after tonight when the Clippers visit the Houston Rockets for another challenging road game.

Despite their recent struggles, Memphis continues lurking in fifth place just a half game behind the Clippers and one game behind the Nuggets. Two of these three teams will likely meet in the first round of the playoffs, so the battle for position in the standings remains critical as the regular season draws to a close.

Here is a look at the full Western Conference standings:

Western Standings

San Antonio Spurs 72 55-17 .764
Oklahoma City Thunder 73 53-20 .726
Denver Nuggets 74 50-24 .676
Los Angeles Clippers 73 49-24 .671
Memphis Grizzlies 72 48-24 .667
Golden State Warriors 73 41-32 .562
Houston Rockets 72 39-33 .542
Utah Jazz 73 37-36 .507
Los Angeles Lakers 73 37-36 .507
Dallas Mavericks 72 35-37 .486
Portland Trail Blazers 72 33-39 .458
Sacramento Kings 73 27-46 .370
Minnesota Timberwolves 71 26-45 .366
New Orleans Hornets 73 25-48 .342
Phoenix Suns 73 23-50 .315

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