The Phoenix Suns begin today with a firm hold on 8th place in the NBA's Western Conference. If the Suns win 2 of their last 3 games, with one of those being Utah on Tuesday, then the Suns will have won the right to extend their season into the playoffs.
Yet, the "playoff predictors" have the Jazz overtaking the Suns by virtue of an easier schedule. The Suns own the tiebreaker, so the Jazz HAVE to finish with a better record. The Jazz play 3 home games to close out their season - hosting the Howard-less Magic, the Suns and then the Trailblazers.
If the Suns finish 3-0, they're in.
If the Jazz finish 3-0, they're in because that means the Suns could do no better than 2-1.
If the Suns finish 2-1, they're in as long as the Jazz go 2-1 as well. The simplest way to accomplish this is to beat the Jazz on Tuesday. But even if the Suns lose to the Jazz, as long as the Jazz lose to either the Magic or Blazers and the Suns beat the Nuggets and Spurs, then the Suns still make the playoffs.
You've heard all this before.
For maximum comfort level, the Suns should just go ahead and beat Denver today while the Jazz lose to the Magic. And then when the Suns beat the Jazz on Tuesday night, the suspense will be over.
One team you don't see mentioned anymore: the Houston Rockets.
Unfortunately for Rockets fans, and Dragon lovers, the Rockets have suddenly hit a wall. Just over a week ago, the Rockets were 32-25, in 6th place in the West, and seemed certain to make the playoffs.
Now? They've lost 6 consecutive games (Jazz, Suns, Nuggets x2, Mavs and Hornets) to drop a full game OUT of the playoffs with only 3 to go. Sure, it's possible they win their final 3 games, while Utah and Phoenix go 1-5 collectively. But that seems even more unlikely than than their earlier hold on playoff position they've frittered away. The Rox have an easy Golden State game today, but then have to play AT Miami, with the Heat fighting for playoff positioning, and then host the suddenly-scary Hornets to close out the season. Expect the Miami loss to put an official end to the Rockets' playoff hopes.
It's really just the Jazz and Suns fighting for the right to play the Thunder or Spurs in round one. Which seems funny, in a way. Round 1 has been the last 2 weeks already, hasn't it?