Earlier in the week, it was the Dallas Mavericks who had made a play to grab the No. 8 seed back from Phoenix. Now, with the Suns in the middle of a six-game winning streak, they stand a game up on the Mavs in seventh place out West.
Dallas lost, 109-103, to the Clippers on Thursday, pushing Dirk and company further away from the pack. Memphis dropped its game on Friday to the Warriors, which catapulted the Suns ahead of both teams as the scrum at the bottom of the best conference in the NBA starts to get dicey. Memphis is in eighth place at the moment, but that could all change.
The three teams at the bottom -- Phoenix, Memphis and Dallas -- all play each other during the last three games of the season. Depending on how the next week shakes out, we could see the final game of the season deciding who makes the playoffs and who ends up on the outside looking in come the morning of April 17.
By beating the Grizzlies, Golden State got a tiny amount of breathing room as they rest in the middle of the pack at sixth place, just below the Portland Trail Blazers. The Warriors are a game back of Portland and just a game-and-a-half ahead of Phoenix. The Blazers haven't exactly been the measure of stability lately, but with LaMarcus Aldridge back, the Warriors will have a hard time sticking their nose in front of Portland.
Stratification at the top of the West is more abundant, but no clearer. The Clippers and Rockets sit at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, but square off Saturday night in a battle where a win for L.A. could mean solidifying third place, but a loss means swapping positions with Houston.
San Antonio looks to be in firm position atop the conference, in the midst of a 12-game winning streak that has the boys from Texas getting hot at just the right time. Oklahoma City is doing everything it can to catch the Spurs, but unless the Spurs suffer a catastrophic collapse, the Thunder will finish just below them at No. 2.
Here are the full standings out West:
|San Antonio Spurs||56||16||-|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||53||19||3|
|Los Angeles Clippers||51||22||5½|
|Portland Trail Blazers||47||27||10|
|Golden State Warriors||45||27||11|
|New Orleans Pelicans||32||40||24|
|Los Angeles Lakers||24||48||32|
In the East, Atlanta is trying its hardest to drop out of the playoffs and give the Knicks a playoff spot, but New York does not seem inclined to take it. Both teams lost games this week, keeping the Hawks two games above the Knicks for the final spot in the conference playoff picture.
Toronto reclaimed the No. 3 spot over the Bulls as Chicago dropped a game to the Trail Blazers and the Raptors beat Boston. The rest of the positions in the Eastern Conference feel more settled than things out West, with the Heat and Pacers trading wins and losses to finish out the season a couple of games apart.
The same can be said for the middle of the pack, where Washington sits behind Brooklyn with no foreseeable way to jump ahead for the No. 5 spot. Charlotte is now three games ahead of Atlanta in the No. 7 spot and with games against weaker conference opposition coming up, aren't likely to concede their position to a rival.
Here are the full standings in the East:
|New York Knicks||30||43||22|