The Race for Eighth
Current Standings | Playoff Picture
By Jay Cipoletti
As the regular season enters its final month, three teams are vying for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Dallas enters tonight's pivotal game at Los Angeles 1.5 games behind the Lakers and 2 games behind the current 8th seed Utah Jazz. If their play in the first three months of 2013 is any indication, the Mavs have every reason to believe they will shave sometime in April and perhaps play into May.
Following a poor November where they were outscored by 2.3 points per 100 possessions with a disastrous December where that margin leapt to 7.4 points x100poss, Dallas stood at 12-19 with little hope of playing in the postseason for the 13th consecutive season. Since the calendar turned, the Mavs are 24-18, highlighted by an 11-5 mark in March that has them at 36-37, just one more win away from a clean shave.
While the Mavs celebrated 2013 by launching their resurgent run as playoff contenders, the Lakers and Jazz were trundling along through January being outscored by 1.3 and 1.0 points per 100 possessions, respectively. However, that was not reflected in their records that month. The Lakers endured a worse than could be expected 5-11 month to start the new year, while the Jazz somehow found a way to forge a 10-4 record despite being outscored for the month.
As the Jazz prepare to host Denver tomorrow night, they will surely have an eye in the rearview mirror towards tonight's Mavs at Lakers match up. Whether they wake up tomorrow tied for the 8th and final spot or holding a one-game advantage over the Lakers, they can thank the vagaries of those January records for sleeping in the driver's seat tonight.