In the always competitive NBA Western Conference, the race for the postseason has become one of the toughest in sports. Teams are often separated by only a few games and can find themselves out of the hunt unless they can put together consistent records in the home stretch of the season.
Here is a look at how each team may fare for contention of the sixth through eighth seed in the west:
6th seed: Portland Trail Blazers (40-30)
Upcoming games: WAS(3/22), SAS(3/25), @OKC(3/27)
Portland has a tough schedule in the home stretch and will need to come up with some quality wins to remain in the postseason picture when the dust settles. The team has 12 games left with nine against current western playoff teams, including six consecutive after they play Washington Tuesday. The Blazers will need to take advantage of games against Golden State and the Wizards while surviving some of the tougher Western Conference teams to keep the sixth seed.
7th seed: New Orleans Hornets (40-31)
Upcoming games: @UTA(3/24), @PHX(3/25), @LAL(3/27)
New Orleans must hold it together against a tough stretch in the next month to advance towards the postseason. Besides a one game reprieve against the Pacers, the Hornets face Western Conference playoff contenders every game until the season ends. A win over Phoenix will help New Orleans going into this week but they will have to do well in their last 11 games to hold on to the seventh seed.
8th seed: Memphis Grizzlies (39-32)
Upcoming games: @BOS(3/23), @CHI(3/25), SA(3/27)
The Grizzlies nabbed an important win against Utah Monday night and have a manageable schedule for the rest of the season. Despite drawing Boston, Chicago and San Antonio in their next three games, Memphis only has six remaining games against teams over .500. Memphis is in the driver seat of their playoff destiny and looks to be getting better as the postseason nears.
9th seed: Houston Rockets (37-34)
Upcoming games: GSW(3/23), @MIA(3/27), @NJN(3/29)
Houston may be in the best shape to leap frog one of the teams ahead of them in the next few weeks. The Rockets are rolling with a four game winning streak, including clutch performances against Phoenix and Utah. With only six of their remaining 11 games against .500 or better teams, the Rockets could make a surprise move up the standings very soon.
10th seed: Phoenix Suns (35-33)
Upcoming games: @LAL(3/22), TRT(3/23), NWO(3/25)
The Suns are limping after a tough four game losing streak comprised of three games against western playoff teams and one against Orlando. They seemed to have rebounded a bit against the Warriors and the Clippers but also face nine .500 or better teams in their last 14 games. Phoenix is two games out of the eighth seed and will have to win consistently over the last part of the season to remain in the playoff discussion.
11th seed: Utah Jazz (36-35)
Upcoming games: @OKC(3/23), NWO(3/24), DAL(3/26)
The Jazz are in the worst shape of all of the teams pushing for the playoffs after back-to-back losses to the Rockets and Grizzlies. Nine out of 11 of their remaining games are against teams in the Western Conference playoff picture and they may end up on the outside of the postseason race sooner rather than later.