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NBA Playoffs: Wild Wild West Features Four-Team Playoff Race

Ben Albert |
April 11, 2014 | 1:52 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

With just over a week until the beginning of the 2014 NBA playoffs, fans and players alike are ready for postseason basketball to begin. It has certainly been an exciting NBA season thus far, and all signs point to the excitement continuing to mount until a champion is crowned. The end of the regular season will be no exception, as the race is on for teams looking to secure postseason spots. While some teams are fighting for seed positioning, the big storyline is the four-team race in the Western Conference for the final three playoff spots.

The Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies all currently sit within two games of one another. Phoenix (7) and Dallas (8) trail Golden State (6) by one game, with Memphis (9) is just one additional game out. Each team has four games remaining in the season, save for Dallas, who just has two. Anything could happen, and examining the remaining schedules for each team reveals what many people have already predicted: The race will come down to the final day of the regular season. Here is a look at the remaining games for these four teams:

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be looking to make a "Splash" in the Playoffs (Getty Images)
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be looking to make a "Splash" in the Playoffs (Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors (48-30): 

April 11 @ Los Angeles Lakers (25-53, 14-25 Home)

April 13 @ Portland Trail Blazers (51-28, 29-10 Home)

April 14, vs Minnesota Timberwolves (39-39, 16-23 Road)

April 16 @ Denver Nuggets (35-44, 21-18 Home) 

Playing three of four games on the road is not an ideal way to close out the season in a tight playoff race, and while a game against the Lakers should be a victory, the final three games will be tough for Golden State. Portland will be an extremely tough road matchup, and playing Minnesota on the second night of a back-to-back may be difficult if Kevin Love gets any support from his teammates. Finally, a matchup with Denver is no cakewalk either. While the Nuggets are far out of playoff contention, they consistently play with energy, and just beat the Warriors in a thriller last night. We all know that Super Splash Bros Steph Curry and Klay Thompson can be deadly when firing on all cylinders, but as a team, Golden State has hit some unexpected speed bumps lately, biggest of all being David Lee's nagging leg injury. Fortunately for them, however, they are currently in the best position of the four teams, and should end the season with a playoff birth.

Prediction: 2-2 finish to the season, 50-32 record (tiebreaker over Phoenix), and the 6-seed in the playoffs, facing the LA Clippers in the first round.  


Gerald Green and the Suns hope to "elevate" their play down the stretch (Getty Images)
Gerald Green and the Suns hope to "elevate" their play down the stretch (Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (47-31), 1 GB Golden State

April 11 @ San Antonio (61-18, 31-8 Home)

April 12 @ Dallas (48-32, 25-15 Home)

April 14 vs Memphis (46-32, 21-18 Road)

April 16 @ Sacramento (27-52, 16-23 Home) 

Phoenix has been—by far—the biggest surprise team of the 2013-2014 season. Many predicted they would be a sure-fire lottery team, if not one of the worst teams in the league. Yet, led by Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and a rejuvenated Eric Bledsoe, they are now just four games away from an improbable playoff birth. Not only that, but they are looking like the strongest of the four teams competing for the three spots. Over the last 10 games, Dallas, Golden State and Memphis have all gone 6-4. Phoenix, meanwhile, has gone 8-2, with statement victories over Portland and Oklahoma City. The team's remaining schedule features three road games, with only one game that should be an easy victory (Sacramento). However, San Antonio will likely rest some of its starters before the playoffs, which would significantly increase the chances of a Suns victory. With that said, it seems the Suns’ season will come down to the matchups against Dallas and Memphis. Phoenix has had its doubters all season, and many still believe that they will fall short of the playoffs this year. But they are young, well-coached and play with a chip on their shoulders, so they deserve the benefit of the doubt. They will split matchups against Dallas and Memphis, but take care of business against San Antonio and Sacramento.

Prediction: 3-1 finish, 50-32 record (tiebreaker to Golden State), and the 7-seed in the playoffs, facing Oklahoma City in the first round.


Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis have the Mavs in control of their playoff destiny (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis have the Mavs in control of their playoff destiny (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks (48-32), 1 GB Golden State

April 12 vs Phoenix (47-31, 21-17 Road)

April 16 @ Memphis (46-32, 25-14 Home)


The Mavericks have also defied expectations in some ways, as their team is mostly made up of old veterans who are well past their prime. However, led by Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Vince Carter, this is quite a resilient team. While it may not be the most athletic group of guys on the floor, the team's experience has guided it to a potential 50-win season and control of its own playoff destiny. With their remaining two games against two fellow playoff-hopeful teams, the Mavs find themselves in a situation in which they control their own fate. If Dallas can win both of its remaining games, they will automatically make the postseason, as they already hold the tiebreaker over Memphis and would hold it over Phoenix as well. The Mavs also will benefit from playing just two games in the final week—as opposed to the other three teams in the playoff race who each play four—as they will have time to rest and do some extra preparing. My gut instinct tells me that they will drop one their final two games, but will still be doing a playoff dance at the end of the season.

Prediction: 1-1 finish, 49-33 record, tiebreaker over Memphis, and the 8-seed in the playoffs, facing San Antonio in the first round.


(Left to Right) Zach Randolph, Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol know the Grizzlies have their work cut out for them (Getty Images)
(Left to Right) Zach Randolph, Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol know the Grizzlies have their work cut out for them (Getty Images)
Memphis Grizzlies (46-32), 1 GB Dallas and Phoenix, 2 GB Golden State

April 11 vs Philadelphia (17-61, 8-30 Road)

April 13 @ Los Angeles Lakers (25-53, 14-25 Home)

April 14 @ Phoenix (47-31, 26-14 Home)

April 16 vs Dallas (48-32, 23-17 Road)


Memphis’ record would have been better this season had Marc Gasol been healthy all year. He wasn’t though, and now the Grizzlies find themselves on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. To get into the postseason, they will probably have to win out. Fortunately for them, the first two of their remaining four games will be against awful, tanking teams. However, they then travel to Phoenix for a road showdown and finish up with Dallas at home. Memphis has swept Phoenix in their first two games, but has been swept by Dallas in three games. Logically, this would suggest a split of the final two games. Although Memphis is the best defensively of the four competing teams and has been consistently gritty for years, it's likely they will split the games against Phoenix and Dallas. Although the Grizzlies may finish the season with the same record as the Mavericks, the tiebreaking system will award Dallas with the eighth and final playoff spot. Memphis will put up a valiant fight to the finish, but fall a tiebreak-game short of postseason play this year.

Prediction: 3-1 finish, 49-33 record (tiebreaker to Dallas), missing playoffs by one game.


It will be very exciting to see how the playoff picture shapes up this year, especially with how strong the Western Conference is. The West is so strong, in fact, that questions have been raised about the entire playoff selection process, as the discrepancy between the Western and Eastern Conference teams seems absurdly large. Record-wise, the current 8-seed in the West (Dallas) would be the outright 3-seed in the East. Even the 10-seed in the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves, at 39-39, would be vying for a seed as high as sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The difference in talent between the East and West teams certainly provokes thought about possible revisions to the system, such as implementing a top-16 league-wide playoff style rather than a top-8 in-conference style. However, no changes will be made in the near future; so for now, the best thing to do is sit back, relax and enjoy what will be an entertaining finish to both regular season and postseason NBA basketball. 


You can reach Ben Albert here or follow him on Twitter



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