Four Western Conference teams are vying for three postseason berths, and currently the Dallas Mavericks project to be the odd man out with the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets all predicted to reach the playoffs.
According to Basketball-Reference.com’s playoff probabilities report, the Mavericks have a 31.7 percent chance of making the postseason, while No. 6 Portland has the best chance at 97.7 percent, No. 7 Utah’s at 87.9 percent, and No. 8 Houston sits at 82.9 percent.
Dropping seven of their last 10 and standing at 36-38, the Mavericks are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in three years and their schedule won’t help things. They are currently No. 9 in the West and things look bleak.
Dirk Nowitzki and Co. are only a half game back of Houston, ground they could make up with dates against the New York Knicks and two road matchups against the Pistons and Timberwolves. But down the stretch, the Mavericks face the Rockets, Grizzlies, Clippers, Jazz and Spurs to close the season. Each of the five opponents are currently in the postseason.
Meanwhile, the schedule seems to be in Portland's favor. Five of the Blazers' final seven games will be at the Moda Center and they hold a two-game lead over No. 8 Houston. Though the Blazers will still meet four teams poised for the playoffs in the Celtics, Heat, Warriors and Thunder over the next week.
Then there’s the Jazz, one of the youngest teams in the NBA but on the cusp of snapping a four-year postseason drought. Utah’s been one of the hottest teams in the league of late, with an 8-2 record over the past 10 games, including big victories over the Cavs and Rockets.
The Jazz have a tough home matchup with the league-leading Warriors on Wednesday, but afterwards Utah will face only two teams currently in the postseason in their final seven games.
The Rockets have managed to overcome their woes from earlier this season, and could be ready to make another run to the Western Conference Finals. Houston has the easiest final stretch of these four teams, ending the regular season with road games at Dallas and Minnesota, and hosting the Suns, Lakers and Kings.
Should Houston get hot, coupled with downslides from Portland and Utah, they could climb as high as No. 5 or No. 6 before the end of the regular season.