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Tuesday, March 2, 2010
West playoff field already set?

By John Hollinger

It’s not quite game over in the Western Conference playoff race, but we’re rapidly getting there. Monday night's wins by Portland (over Memphis) and San Antonio (over New Orleans) sucked most of the remaining drama out of the chase for the final two playoff spots. The Grizzlies and Hornets badly needed wins to keep pace in the West; with home losses by both, neither has more than a 5 percent chance of making the postseason, according to the Playoff Odds.

The lone remaining threat is Houston, which has received 93 points from Kevin Martin in the past three games and now stands four games behind the Blazers and four-and-a-half behind the Spurs for the final spot in the West.

Houston has slightly better odds of catching San Antonio than Portland. The Rockets would earn the season tie-breaker with the Spurs if they defeat them in the teams' final meeting of the season on March 31, and the Spurs have a tougher remaining schedule than the Blazers. Nonetheless, Houston has just a 17.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, with the Playoff Odds projecting Houston to finish five games off the Blazers’ pace and six off that of the Spurs. It will take either a major hot streak or a major slump to alter the current top eight out West.