NBA playoff standings: Jazz earn cushion in race against Lakers, Clippers sliding


The Jazz are half a game up on the Lakers after winning five straight, while the Clippers have a fluke in playoff seeding to thank for their fourth position. The Lakers and Mavs play Tuesday in a big game for the West's last playoff spot.

With a fifth straight win, the streaking Utah Jazz are now first in the race to earn the Western Conference's last playoff spot, edging out the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.

In some aspects, their streak hasn't been fluky: after struggling, the Jazz have exploded with five straight wins by double-digits, comfortable victories that were rarely in doubt. In others, they've had some remarkable, seemingly unsustainable outings: Randy Foye drilled eight threes on nine shots against Brooklyn Saturday, Mo Williams had six on seven shots Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers in a 112-102 win. The constant has been Al Jefferson: after returning from an injury at the beginning of March, he'd only hit 20 points in one of his first ten games in the month. He's now hit that threshold in each of the Jazz' last four games, recording a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double against the Blazers.

It's bad news for the Lakers and Mavericks, who join the Jazz in a three-game chase for one playoff spot. Those two teams play Tuesday night: if the Lakers win, they'll be tied up the Jazz for the eighth spot. If the Mavs -- who have perked up recently, winning Saturday behind 35 points and a last-second three from Dirk Nowitzki -- win, they'll be 1.5 games back of Utah and half-a-game behind the Lakers.

The Clippers seem to be in a little bit of trouble after losing three straight, but the good news is that they're unlikely to lose home-court advantage in the first round: they're 6.5 games ahead of the nearest team in the weak Pacific Division, and if they win that, they earn a top-four seed in the playoffs regardless of how they actually stack up in the standings. That pits the Nuggets and Grizzlies -- each tied at 50-24 -- in a battle to finish third in the West with the better team getting the third spot and the loser dropping to fifth behind the Clippers.

Here's a look at the full standings:

Western Standings

San Antonio Spurs 74 55-19 .743
Oklahoma City Thunder 74 54-20 .730
Denver Nuggets 74 50-24 .676
Los Angeles Clippers 75 49-26 .653
Memphis Grizzlies 74 50-24 .676
Golden State Warriors 74 42-32 .568
Houston Rockets 74 41-33 .554
Utah Jazz 75 39-36 .520
Los Angeles Lakers 74 38-36 .514
Dallas Mavericks 73 36-37 .493
Portland Trail Blazers 74 33-41 .446
Minnesota Timberwolves 73 27-46 .370
Sacramento Kings 74 27-47 .365
New Orleans Hornets 74 26-48 .351
Phoenix Suns 74 23-51 .311

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