With Portland's surprising win against San Antonio tonight, the Rockets, Blazers and Spurs find themselves in a 3-way tie, with each team sitting at 50-28. As of now, San Antonio is still at the #3 spot in the West, Houston at #4 and Portland at 5th.
Houston is currently looking up at San Antonio in the standings because of the two teams' division records; San Antonio is sitting at 9-6 against Southwest Division teams, whereas the Rockets are one win behind at 8-6. This tie-breaker situation is particularly interesting for both teams because the Rockets and Spurs only have one inner-division game left: both against the Hornets. This means the game against New Orleans has HUGE implications, and everyone should buy their tickets now for next Monday's game to make sure we're as loud as possible. The upside is two-fold: we have historically done pretty well against Chris Paul's team, whereas the Spurs have had their troubles, and on top of that, the Spurs get their shot at the Hornets after us, and you can bet on them being pretty in the zone after a probable loss in Houston. Thus, if Houston beats New Orleans, and San Antonio loses to them, we take the lead in the division race, and as a result, the #3 seed.
Portland keeping pace with both Houston and San Antonio seems highly improbable by looking at the 3 teams' schedules:
Houston: vs. Sacramento, @ Golden State, vs. New Orleans, @ Dallas
Houston has a great shot at ending the season on a 6-game streak (when you add the recent wins over Portland and Orlando), and subsequently, with great momentum heading into the playoffs. The one back-to-back is featuring teams we have demolished this season time and time against. @ Dallas is also a HUGE game for padding our lead in the Division race.
Prediction: 4-0 (total of 6-0 if you go back 2)
San Antonio: vs. Utah, @ Sacramento, @ Golden State, vs. New Orleans
San Antonio SHOULD beat Utah because they suck and are awful on the road; on top of that, the Spurs just have their number (although that might change in a Manu-less world, and a worn out Duncan). They will also probably win against Sacramento, but Golden State may be the tipping point; they are fast, offensively very potent (they nearly beat the Spurs a couple games ago in San Antonio) and that game is on the wrong side of a back-to-back. If Sacramento makes the game even close, you can count on the Spurs running out of gas about midway through the 3rd quarter in Oakland. Their last game of the season, against the Hornets, will be big for them and they know it (because no one wants to potentially face the Lakers in Round 2, even if you get Portland in Round 1), but even if they scrape it out, us winning against New Orleans and Dallas would put us ahead of them in the Division Race.
Portland: vs. Lakers, @ Clippers, vs. Oklahoma City, vs. Denver
Portland may very well beat the Lakers [again], after the momentum they should've built off of a big win against San Antonio, and should beat the Clippers and Thunder. The big question mark is on their last game of the season: can they hang in their with inner-division nemesis Nuggets? Sure, they'll be in the comfy confines of the Rose Garden, but the Nuggets are looking tougher and tougher every game.
Prediction: 3-1 (they either beat the Nuggets or Lakers, but not both)
Finishing Records: Houston @ 54-28, San Antonio @ 52-30, Portland at 53-29
Lets hope I'm right and that we get New Orleans in Round 1! Go Rockets!