The battle for the best record in the Western Conference and indeed the whole NBA has intensified in the closing weeks of the season. Al Dannity examines the case for a late surge by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Attention at this time of year is normally focussed on the fringes of the playoff race. Teams battling for the last couple of spots make desperate late pushes to get into the post-season. This year however all the action is among the NBA’s elite. With the lower seeds all but locked up, the real race is to decide who will secure home court throughout the playoffs. For most of the year it looked a foregone conclusion that San Antonio would take top spot in both the Western Conference and the NBA as a whole. The Spurs pre-playoff collapse has changed that situation and now they lead the Lakers by just 2.5 games. With L.A. having 6 games to play, as opposed to San Antonio’s 5, the Spurs must win 4 of their final 5 games to be absolutely certain of clinching first place in the West.
Lakers have big chance
Los Angeles will host the Spurs on April 12, in a game that could decide the fate of the #1 seed in the Western Conference, if not the NBA as a whole. While the Spurs gained some breathing room due to L.A.’s loss at Denver, the Lakers have all the momentum at this point in the season. Victory in this Staples Center match-up would also ensure the teams tied the season series 2-2, removing a big tie-breaker that currently favors the Spurs. With the exception of this match-up, both teams have dominated their remaining opponents throughout the season. NBA betting fans know that makes the showdown in Los Angeles all the more crucial.
Don’t forget the Bulls
While the most critical battle for the Spurs and Lakers will be in locking down the West’s #1 seed, home advantage all the way through to the Finals is also at stake. The last time both #1 seeds made the Finals was 2008 but it’s certainly a possibility this year. As things currently stand, the Bulls are 1.5 games behind the Spurs and a game ahead of the Lakers. This means San Antonio need to win all their remaining games to be certain of home advantage right through to the Finals. The Bulls road to the end of the season is far more difficult than the one facing either of the two teams atop the West. It promises to be a dramatic conclusion to the regular season. Then the real business will get under way.
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