2014 NBA standings: Rockets take big hit in loss to Clippers, Suns cling to 8th seed

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets took a painful loss in Los Angeles, and the Memphis Grizzlies are a half-game out of the playoffs with the Phoenix Suns falling on Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Clippers coming up with a home win against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday shed light on the importance of wins when considering the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture and elsewhere in the playoff race.

Kevin McHale's Rockets entered the evening with the same record as the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers but in losing to the Clips did more than fall a game back once the Blazers ran the Brooklyn Nets out of the gym, 124-80.

Houston dropped to the fifth seed because the No. 2 seeded San Antonio Spurs lead the Southwest Division ahead of it, while Los Angeles leads the Pacific. On top of the hurt coming from the 101-93 road loss, the Rockets now don't have a shot at winning a tiebreaker with the Clippers, who lead the season series 3-0 with only one game between the two teams remaining. And a first-round matchup between Houston and Los Angeles is a solid bet.

So yeah. It was a painful loss to Houston and a big one for Doc Rivers' Los Angeles team, one that goes beyond feeling good about playing lockdown defense on a squad with a bit of firepower.

Sunday Shootaround

The Oklahoma City Thunder still hold a 1.5-game lead on the Spurs atop the standings in the Western Conference, and after a three-team battle for the 3-5 spots, there's another tier at the bottom of the conference with things left to shake out. Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix are within two games of one another, and with the Suns sliding without Goran Dragic in a hurtful loss to Utah on Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies are only a half-game out of the final playoff spot.

Western Conference Standings

Western Record PCT Games behind
Oklahoma City 43-15 0.741 0
San Antonio 41-16 0.719 1.5
Portland 40-18 0.690 3
L.A. Clippers 40-20 0.667 4
Houston 39-19 0.672 4
Dallas 36-23 0.610 7.5
Golden State 35-23 0.603 8
Phoenix 33-24 0.579 9.5
Memphis 32-24 0.571 10
Minnesota 28-29 0.491 14.5
Denver 25-31 0.446 17
New Orleans 23-34 0.404 19.5
Utah 21-36 0.368 21.5
Sacramento 20-37 0.351 22.5
L.A. Lakers 19-39 0.328 24

The Pacers and Heat are still running away with the East, and Indiana's goal of holding precious homecourt against its rivals is still alive and well. Frank Vogel's squad also has a one-game lead on the West's best, the Thunder.

The third of fourth seeds are separating with Toronto and Chicago each having lost a single game in the last two weeks. With just more than 20 games left for most teams, it seems those two squads will be fighting for matchups, though the Washington Wizards are only two games back of an opening-round homecourt advantage -- they'll have to hold up without Nene for the time being.

At the backend of the playoff race, any of Charlotte, Brooklyn or Atlanta would need a losing streak if Detroit, Cleveland or New York have any hope of snagging a playoff spot. Of course, that would mean one of the latter three squads puts in a respectable run. The best bet to earn a spot as an Eastern Conference playoff team? Aim for a .500 record by the end of the year.

Eastern Conference Standings

Team Record Winning PCT Games behind
Indiana 43-13 0.768 0
Miami 40-14 0.741 2
Toronto 32-25 0.561 11.5
Chicago 31-26 0.544 12.5
Washington 29-28 0.509 14.5
Charlotte 27-30 0.474 16.5
Brooklyn 26-29 0.473 16.5
Atlanta 26-31 0.456 17.5
Detroit 23-35 0.397 21
Cleveland 23-36 0.390 21.5
New York 21-36 0.368 22.5
Boston 20-39 0.339 24.5
Orlando 18-42 0.300 27
Philadelphia 15-43 0.259 29
Milwaukee 11-45 0.196 32

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