NBA standings 2014: Fierce battles in middle, bottom of Western Conference playoff race

Harry How

The Rockets, Clippers and Trail Blazers are separated by a half-game in the middle of the West playoff picture.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs have created a bit of separation at the top of the Western Conference, but there are some fierce battles going down lower in the playoff picture.

The Houston Rockets used an eight-game winning streak to charge into the No. 3 seed, although that streak failed to reach nine after an overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. With the loss, the Rockets now hold a half-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers for that third spot.

All three of those teams are currently dealing with some injuries to key players. James Harden hyperextended his right elbow in the loss to the Warriors, and it's currently unclear how much time he'll miss, if any. J.J. Redick will miss about a month with various injuries, while LaMarcus Aldridge is dealing with a groin issue. The Aldridge injury comes at a bad time for a Blazers team starting to falter after their phenomenal start.

The final three teams in the West playoff picture are all bunched together, with the Memphis Grizzlies not far behind in the No. 9 spot. The Phoenix Suns currently hold the No. 6 seed, percentage points ahead of Golden State. The Dallas Mavericks are just a game behind in the No. 8 slot, and Memphis sits just a game behind Dallas.

The only other team that seems capable of possibly inserting themselves into playoff contention is the Minnesota Timberwolves, but that would require quite the hot streak. The Wolves are 5½ games out of the No. 8 seed, and they've had troubles with consistency all season. Not to mention Minnesota is dealing with some injury problems of their own.

Here are the full Western Conference standings:

Western Standings

Oklahoma City Thunder 56 43-13 .768
San Antonio Spurs 55 40-15 .727
Houston Rockets 55 37-18 .673
Los Angeles Clippers 56 37-19 .661
Portland Trail Blazers 54 36-18 .667
Phoenix Suns 53 32-21 .604
Golden State Warriors 55 33-22 .600
Dallas Mavericks 55 32-23 .582
Memphis Grizzlies 53 30-23 .566
Minnesota Timberwolves 54 26-28 .481
Denver Nuggets 53 25-28 .472
New Orleans Pelicans 53 23-30 .434
Utah Jazz 53 19-34 .358
Los Angeles Lakers 54 18-36 .333
Sacramento Kings 54 18-36 .333

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