Community Shootaround: Potential Western Play-In Matchups

With the Rockets still pushing for a play-in spot and in the midst of a four-game winning streak, the Western Conference’s postseason teams aren’t yet set in stone. But Houston remains 3.5 games back of the No. 10 Warriors and may not have center Alperen Sengun available for the rest of the season, so it would be a major surprise if the Rockets move into the top 10.

Assuming Houston falls short of the play-in cut-off, the four Western Conference teams in the play-in tournament will almost certainly come from this group of six clubs, which is currently separated by five games in the standings:

  1. New Orleans Pelicans (39-26)
  2. Sacramento Kings (38-27)
  3. Phoenix Suns (38-28)
  4. Dallas Mavericks (38-29)
  5. Los Angeles Lakers (36-31)
  6. Golden State Warriors (34-31)

It’s an awfully loaded group of teams in the play-in mix. If we assume the Pelicans and Kings hang onto their top-six spots, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Stephen Curry would have to secure their playoff berths via the play-in tournament, and two title hopefuls would end up headed home before the first round tips off.

The Suns, just a half-game back of the No. 6 seed and with their big three (Durant, Booker, and Bradley Beal) healthy, look like a strong candidate to move out of play-in range and snag a top-six spot. But as ESPN notes, Phoenix has the second-most difficult schedule the rest of the way, so that path won’t be an easy one.

The Warriors are in a good position to make up ground in the standings if they can get hot — they play both the Mavericks and Lakers twice more in the season’s final weeks, though three of those four matchups are on the road.

It’s also worth noting that Curry is banged up at the moment, though there’s optimism he’ll return soon. The same is true of Doncic in Dallas.

If the Lakers and Warriors end up in the ninth and 10th spots, it would result in arguably the most star-studded win-or-go-home the play-in tournament has seen since its inception. And whichever team wins that game would need to earn a second victory on the road to make the playoffs.

Looking at the Western Conference play-in picture, we want to know what you think. Which teams do you expect to finish in fifth and sixth, avoiding the play-in tournament? What would be the best matchups in the Western play-in games? Which two clubs do you expect to be eliminated in the tournament and watching the first round from home?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

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