Welcome back for the second installment of Down on the Block’s Western Conference playoff race tracker. Not much has changed since yesterday, with just three teams in action (all of whom won). So here’s a quick primer for tonight’s full slate of action. First, the latest standings:
The seeds remain the same after the Spurs, Jazz and red-hot Blazers notched W’s Monday night. Things have just grown ever tighter. I expect some upheaval after tonight’s matchups, however. Peep it…
Tonight’s relevant games:
Rockets @ Thunder – The game of the night sees Houston putting its 15-game winning streak on the line against a topsy turvy Thunder bunch. The crowd in OKC figures to play a role, but the Thunder’s stars all need to show out tonight (that means you too, Carmelo). I like this matchup because Paul George is one of the few defenders that can make James Harden‘s life difficult, while the burly Steven Adams can stifle those deadly Clint Capela rolls to the rim. The game likely hinges on a) whether Melo make some shots and b) the point guard battle between Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The Thunder really need this one, and they have home court, so I’m picking them in a squeaker, 119-116.
Nuggets @ Mavericks – The first of several gimmes for Denver. Assuming they don’t mess around as they tend to do, this should be a win. These are the games franchise center Nikola Jokic needs to make sure ends in victory for a team clinging to the final playoff spot. Give me the Nuggets, 112-99.
Nets @ Warriors – Don’t be surprised if the Nets linger in this one. The Dubs’ M.O. this year is to be disinterested in cake walks like these. But with Houston setting the pace, it won’t take too long for the champs to do what they do. Golden State is the pick, 124-108.
Knicks @ Trail Blazers – New York is giving up 120+ just about every night. Look for that to continue in Rip City, as Damian Lillard leads the Blazers to an eighth-straight victory, 126-92.
Pelicans @ Clippers – The TNT nightcap should be a doozy. The Pels look for a ninth straight win on the road. Anthony Davis has been phenomenal but faces a tall task against DeAndre Jordan tonight. Look for him to try to lure Jordan out onto the perimeter often, which could lead to a big assist total for the Brow. As hot as New Orleans has been, their mostly winning close games. Could this be a night when Austin Rivers and/or Lou Williams heats up in the fourth quarter to pull away? I’m going out on a limb and saying yes. Clippers win 104-101.
Picks record since March 5: 2-1