Fight for playoff position heats up in NBA’s Western Conference
The battle for the eight playoff spots in the NBA ‘s Western Conference is heating up as the teams head down the final stretch of the 82-game regular season.
Just 7 1/2 games separate the conference-leading and two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors (46-21) and the eighth-placed Los Angeles Clippers , who are one of several teams looking to move up in the standings.
The Clippers got 27 points from power forward Danilo Gallinari in a 128-121 home victory over the Chicago Bulls, a game in which both head coaches - Los Angeles’ Doc Rivers and Chicago’s Jim Boylen - were ejected for jawing at one another.
The Clippers (40-30) have won seven of their last 10 and are just 3 1/2 games behind the third-placed Houston Rockets , who got another stellar outing from MVP candidate James Harden on Friday night.
The crafty shooting guard nearly notched a triple-double in his team’s narrow 108-102 home victory over the Phoenix Suns, finishing with 41 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists.
Despite having their nine-game losing streak snapped in a 106-104 loss to the Warriors on Wednesday night, the Rockets (43-26) remain one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
In other Western Conference action on Friday night, the fourth-placed Portland Trail Blazers and sixth-placed San Antonio Spurs continued their strong recent play with wins over the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks , respectively.
The Blazers (42-26) went on the road and defeated the Pelicans 122-110 thanks to 24 points from Damian Lillard and 23 points from fellow guard C.J. McCollum .
Lillard became the second-leading scorer in franchise history (12,584 points) on Friday and now trails only Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Clyde Drexler (18,040 points).
Portland have won three straight games and seven of their last 10.
The Spurs (40-29), winners of seven in a row, coasted to a 109-83 home victory Friday night over the lowly New York Knicks.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored a team-high 18 points to head up a balanced Spurs offense. He also led all San Antonio players with 11 rebounds.
The 11th-placed Los Angeles Lakers, however, lost for the eighth time in 10 games on Friday, falling on the road to the Detroit Pistons 111-97 in a game in which LeBron James was given the night off.
That storied franchise had high hopes after acquiring James in free agency prior to the 2018-2019 season, but they have seen their season slip away over the past 10 games.
Two other Western Conference teams, the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves, also have faded from the playoff picture since the All-Star break.
That leaves eight teams - the Warriors, Denver Nuggets , Rockets, Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder , Spurs, Utah Jazz and Clippers - all on the verge of clinching berths in the post-season, which starts next month.
But their seedings - and the first-round playoff match-ups in the West - are far from being determined.