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Previewing The Playoff Push

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As of the exact moment I'm writing this sentence, the Memphis Grizzlies are exactly 5 games behind the Portland Trailblazers in the battle for the 8th seed. If the Grizzlies hope to get back into the playoffs, they'll have to finish the season ahead of, most likely, either the Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, or Phoenix Suns.

And it might not be smart to count out either the Rockets or Hornets. The Houston Rockets are just a half game behind the Grizzlies and are beginning to mesh behind Kevin Martin. Chris Paul could be returning to the Hornets any day now, though it's unclear if they'll be able to both maximize their talent (play Paul and Collison) and win (with 2 tiny guards).

What kind of chance do the Grizzlies have to make the playoffs, then? The odds certainly seem stacked against them. John Hollinger has Memphis with a 1 percent chance to get in, Houston with a 3 percent chance, and New Orleans with a staggering 0 percent chance. At least we're not the Hornets.

Just what that 1 percent chance entails, however, is the subject of concern over the jump.

I guess the first thing that we should establish, then, is what each of these teams' futures look like, so off to the last dozen or so of the schedule:

Trailblazers: Portland's remaining schedule is actually pretty favorable. You've got to like their chances to pick up a bare minimum of 1 top win, 2 in the middle, and 4 from the bottom. So the Blazers, barring catastrophe, have an excellent shot to finish 48-34.

Top-Tier: Dallas, Denver, Dallas, Lakers

Mid-Levels: Phoenix, New Orleans, OKC, OKC

The Dregs: Washington, NYK, Sacramento, LAC, GSW

Spurs: The Spurs have a lot of games left, and you'll notice that they're looking at some top-heavy weeks. Also 11 of these 18 games are also on the road. I'll let the Spurs steal 3 of 9 big wins, get 2 of the mid-levels, and take 3 of the easy ones. That puts them at 47-35; with a lot of wiggle room on the top and bottom.

Top-Tier: Orlando, Atlanta, Lakers, Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Lakers, Denver, Dallas

Mid-Levels: Miami, OKC, Houston, Phoenix, Memphis

The Dregs: GSW, New Jersey, Sacramento, Minnesota

Houston: Absolutely the best schedule of the bunch. Houston should steal at least 1 of their hardest games, get 4 of these mid-levels, and 5 of the bottom feeders. That gives them 10 more wins, and they've got multiple chances to put space between them and the Grizz, NOH, and the Spurs. 10 more wins still only puts them below the threshold at 44-38, though.

Top-Tier: Boston, Lakers, Boston

Mid-Levels: Memphis, OKC, Spurs, Memphis, Utah, Charlotte, Phoenix, New Orleans

The Dregs: Knicks, Bulls, LAC, Washington, Indiana, Sacramento

Memphis: You look at the start of this and are like, "How are the Grizzlies not going to make the playoffs?" Their next month or so is practically all against bad teams. But then the real games come. April includes just one game against a bad team and 3 against the best of the best. I'm giving the Grizzlies 1 against a championship contender, 3 against the middle, and 4 of the easy wins. That's probably favorable, and it still only gives them 8 more wins - enough for a 43-39 finish. Not bad, but probably not good enough either.

Top-Tier: Dallas, Orlando, Dallas, Denver

Mid-Levels: Houston, Milwaukee, NOH, Houston, Spurs, OKC

The Dregs: Chicago, GSW, Sacramento, GSW, 76ers