Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT

Seeds of doubt

Much still to be decided in West during sprint to finish

Posted: Monday April 7, 2008 3:12PM; Updated: Monday April 7, 2008 3:30PM
Free E-mail AlertsE-mail ThisPrint ThisSave ThisMost PopularRSS Aggregators

Who says the NBA playoffs don't begin until April 19? For all practical purposes, the postseason tips off for the Nuggets and Warriors when they meet Thursday in Oakland. With those two squads tied as of Sunday for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the contest could be decisive.

Meanwhile, the rest of the West is still up for grabs in terms of playoff seeding. The Hornets, Lakers and Spurs are all in the hunt for the top spot, with all three facing big games this week. New Orleans entered the week with a 1-game lead, but the Hornets must face the Jazz on Tuesday, then travel to L.A. for a huge showdown with the Lakers on Friday.

This week's high riser: Mavs (No. 7 from 14)
This week's big drop: Nuggets (No. 11 from 7)

NBA Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 1 Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have been getting plenty of rest down the stretch without it costing the Celtics any mojo (six straight wins). All they have left to play for is to reach 64 victories, which would be third most in their storied franchise's history.
2 2 So far their lack of inexperience hasn't hurt them much in these final weeks. Sunday's win over the Warriors made it five straight and 10 of 11 overall as they home in on the best record in the West. Meanwhile, Chris Paul's MVP candidacy is booming at the right time.
3 8 Pau Gasol's return from his ankle injury has vaulted them back into these lofty regions. Gasol had 20 points and nine rebounds Sunday at Sacramento as L.A. won its fourth straight game and stayed in the race for the West's top seed.
4 6 They held the Spurs to 64 points in Friday night's big home victory, their third straight win and sixth in their last seven. It should be a confidence booster heading into a rugged remaining schedule that includes this week's contests at New Orleans (Tuesday) and at Dallas (Thursday).
5 4 Like the Celtics, they are taking advantage of a soft schedule down the stretch to rest their stars without giving up anything in the win column. Sunday's victory at Miami made it five straight as the Zoo Crew (led by Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey) has done the job.
6 3 They won at Portland on Sunday to get back on track after having their eight-game winning streak snapped at Utah. The good news for them is that Michael Finley has picked it up of late, with a recent stretch of five straight games in double figures.
7 14 Sunday's spirited rally from 13 down in the fourth to win at Phoenix just might have saved their season. Best of all, Dirk Nowitzki has shown no ill effects from his ankle injury (25.7 points on 53 percent shooting in three games), and appears determined to carry them to the postseason.
8 5 Just when they thought they had it all figured out, they came unglued in Sunday's loss to the Mavs that ended a seven-game home winning streak. It doesn't get any easier, either, with difficult road games this week at San Antonio (Wednesday) and Houston (Friday).
9 13 They crushed the Clippers on Sunday (their third straight victory) to clinch a playoff spot. Given Yao Ming's injury, it's a notable accomplishment. Still, Tracy McGrady knows just making the postseason isn't enough. "It's not what we want to celebrate," he said.
10 9 Gee, think they're regretting that 0-6 start when Stephen Jackson was out with a suspension? A 1-3 road trip left their playoff hopes in peril, but now they come home for four of their last five, including Thursday's huge visit from the Nuggets.

1 of 3