As we all saw coming, it looks as if the race for the last seeds in the West may very well come to the final game of the season.
The benefits of winning this game vary for both teams, however. Denver (34-28), 1 1/2 games ahead of the Suns (33-30), could clinch a playoff berth with a win. They would seal the 7th seed, leaving the Utah Jazz (33-30) and Phoenix Suns to fight for the last spot.
If the Suns win, they could possibly move to a game up on Utah, depending on how they fare against the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic. The Jazz are virtually in a must-win situation, considering the Suns hold the tie-breaker between them and the Jazz. Therefore, if the Suns were to lose and the Jazz win, the Suns would be a game behind the Jazz, but control their own fate as they face the Jazz on Tuesday.
Regardless, the Suns are in prime position for the No. 8 seed, especially if they can win one of the next two games.
The Houston Rockets, sitting on a 6-game losing streak, still have life, as they are a game behind both the Jazz and Suns. But the Suns, if they win their next two contests, would own the tie-breaker (better conference record) over the Rockets.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, are looking to clinch the playoffs, which they have done every season since 2003. Although their playoff streak is impressive, they have advanced past the first round but once, in that span, an indicator of their poor playoff success.
In terms of this season’s series between the Nuggets and Suns, the Nuggets have won five straight. They have been problematic on offense, averaging 120.0 points a game in the series. However, a key to the series is that four of the games have been played in Denver, and the Suns are 19-12 at home this season, as well as 12-3 since the All-Star break.
Steve Nash is also close to a significant achievement. He has 9,887 career assists, and needs four more to pass Oscar Robertson for fifth on the all-time career assists list.
This game is an important one for both teams, but the Suns will likely be watching the Jazz-Magic game with a sense of anticipation, regardless of the outcome of this game. The race for the West is coming down to the wire, and it looks like two of these four teams (if you choose to include the Rockets) will be going home with nothing but a taste of the NBA Playoffs.