The tight Western Conference standings leave little breathing room for the San Antonio Spurs in the second half.
A three-game slide to close the first half only narrowed the Western Conference standings, with the San Antonio Spurs clinging to the No. 3 spot. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder were the main trailers in the standings, but before the All-Star break, teams near the bottom of the playoff race started to emerge and found themselves just one or two games behind the Spurs.
Suddenly, there’s a marginal gap between the No. 3 Spurs and the No. 10 Utah Jazz, with just 4.5 games separating them. The Jazz went on a torrid 11-game winning streak to close the first half and made the West a compelling race — everyone aside from the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets — for most of its seeding.
The standings, as of Feb. 23, look like this:
- Houston Rockets: 44-13
- Golden State Warriors: 45-14
- San Antonio Spurs: 35-24, 10 GB
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 36-25, 10 GB
- Oklahoma City Thunder: 34-26, 11.5 GB
- Denver Nuggets: 32-26, 12.5 GB
- Portland Trail Blazers: 32-26: 12.5 GB
- New Orleans Pelicans: 31-26, 13 GB
- Los Angeles Clippers: 30-27, 14 GB
- Utah Jazz: 30-28, 14.5 GB
14 of San Antonio’s final 23 games, including Friday’s matchup in Denver, will be against the other nine teams in the playoff hunt. It leaves a minor margin for error, which can easily take the team from No. 3 to No. 7, 8 or out of the playoffs, pending Utah’s streak continues and the Clippers continue to stay afloat.
Outside of this, the Spurs still must play the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards (twice). It’s a dangerous situation for the Silver and Black, who may need to eclipse .500 record in these 23 games to secure their playoff hopes.
Can the Spurs maintain success with a schedule full of playoff teams? If anything, it’s a test for the postseason and to see how far this team can go.