The NBA restart has brought excitement and provided thrilling encounters so far. With the battle for the playoff places in the Eastern Conference all but done, the focus has now shifted to the Western Conference, where the last remaining playoff spot is still up for grabs. In the Western Conference, the 8th and final seed will go to one team in the NBA’s first-ever play-in tournament.
Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs will be competing for two spots in the play-in tournament at the end of the regular season. The winner of the tournament will join the other seven Western Conference teams who have already booked their places in the playoffs.
At the moment, the final playoff position is being held by Portland Trail Blazers, who are firm favorites to make the playoffs. However, the Grizzlies, Suns, and Spurs could still pull a surprise.
Here is a look at the four sides fighting for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, their performances after the NBA restart, and assess their chances of making the playoffs at the end of the season.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the most in-form teams after the NBA restart. Their performances after the restart have seen them earn the title of favorites to clinch the last spot in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers have the NBA’s best offense after the restart. They are also playing like a playoff team as well.
The Trail Blazers’ recent 134-131 win over Dallas Mavericks saw them claim their fifth win out of the seven games they have played after the restart and solidify their stronghold of the 8th position. The highlight of the Trail Blazers’ win over the Mavericks was the excellent performances of star man Damian Lillard. In a high-stakes game, Lillard stole the show by scoring an astonishing 61 points to ensure his team secure an all-important win and boost their playoff hopes. The game also saw Lillard record 60-plus points in a game for the third time this season. As a result, he has written his name in the history books alongside Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in the NBA’s history to score 60 plus points in three or more games in one season.
With his current form, it is undebatable that Lillard has been the hottest player in the league after the restart. With Lillard in the team, it will be difficult to bet against the Trail Blazers not to make the playoffs. With a final game against Brooklyn Nets on the horizon, Lillard and his Trail Blazers side will have the opportunity to continue their push for the remaining playoff spot.
It hasn’t been the perfect restart of the league for Memphis Grizzlies, who are currently in a slump and could miss the playoffs. Their recent 122-107 loss to Boston Celtics means that the Grizzlies have only won one of their seven games after the restart, giving them a terrible 1-6 win-loss record in Orlando. Their only win during this period came against Oklahoma City Thunder (121-92) in their fourth game of the restart.
At the moment, the Grizzlies have the fifth-worst offense in the league since the restart. The Grizzlies’ defense has been the only reason why Memphis is still in the hunt for the playoffs. Memphis Grizzlies will be without Jaren Jackson Jr. for the end of the season due to injury.
Despite their recent struggles, the Grizzlies are still 9th on the Western Conference, a place behind Portland Trail Blazers, and could progress if they can find a way to pull a miracle against this season’s top team Milwaukee Bucks in their final game.
Phoenix Suns have been the NBA’s best team since the restart. Their recent 130-117 win over Philadelphia 76ers extended their unbeaten record to 8 games and also increased their win percentage to .458, the same as 9th placed Memphis Grizzlies. The trio of Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio, and DeAndre Ayton have all been standout performers for the team since the restart.
To advance to the play-in tournament and possibly the playoffs, the Suns will have to beat Dallas Mavericks in their final game and hope that the Grizzlies lose their game against the Bucks.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs have also been in good form since the restart. Spurs’ recent 123-105 win over Houston Rockets ensured a third consecutive win and a fifth overall win after seven games.
Despite their decent form, San Antonio retains an outside chance of making it to the in-play tournament. They are still 11th on the Western Conference table with a 31-38 win-loss record and a .457 win percentage. They will have to beat Utah Jazz in their final game and hope that results elsewhere will go their way.