With the college basketball season over and the playoffs in view, the stretch run of the NBA season is in high gear. Teams at the top of the standings are trying to secure home-court advantage, while teams in the middle are jockeying for playoff positioning and teams at the bottom are resting veterans with one eye on ping-pong balls.
As usual, most of the attention is focused on the L.A. Lakers, who are currently 1/2 game behind the Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, they are far from the only team with one eye on the standings right now.
The Western Conference:
2 -- The Warriors, currently the No. 6 seed, will clinch their first playoff berth in six years if they beat Minnesota and Utah loses to Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
3 -- The Rockets, currently the No. 7 seed, can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Phoenix and a Utah loss. If Houston wins and Golden State loses, the Rockets would move to No. 6.
4 -- With only four games left on the Jazz schedule, the Lakers no longer control their own destiny. If Utah wins out, they will make the playoffs. If they go 3-1, L.A. will need to win out. Utah's game against the Thunder on Tuesday could be the best chance the Lakers will have to make up ground.
2 -- The Mavericks, sitting at the No. 10 seed with a 38-39 record, have zero margin for error if they want to sneak back into the playoffs. Any combination of two Utah wins or two Dallas losses in the next week will officially knock them out of the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
The Eastern Conference:
1 -- The Knicks can clinch their first division title in 19 seasons with a win over Washington and a Brooklyn loss to Philadelphia.
5 -- The Bobcats have more than doubled their win total from last season, but they're still in the driver's seat to have the worst record in the NBA this season. If they lose their final five games, they will secure the most ping-pong balls in this year's lottery as well as at least the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. The Magic are right on their tail, only 1/2 game "behind" their Southeast Division rival.