The N.B.A.'s Wild Western Conference Playoff Race: Who Will Make … – New York Times

Few people expected the Oklahoma City Thunder to beat the Houston Rockets on Saturday.

The Rockets have the best record in the West. The Thunder had lost four of their last five games. It was a slide that could have pushed Oklahoma City’s so-called superteam out of the playoffs entirely.

And now, even after the Thunder’s 108-102 victory in Houston, that threat is still real.

On Sunday afternoon, only three teams in the West had clinched a playoff spot. By defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the evening, the Utah Jazz made it four. But, with only three days left in the regular season, the New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves have not stamped their playoff passports.

The ninth-place Nuggets, who have won five games straight, are still looking to replace one unlucky loser, and all five teams are within a single game of one another.

Below is a schedule of each team’s remaining games and a prediction of how each team will perform in what will be one of the wildest weeks in the West in recent memory.

New Orleans Pelicans

• Monday, at Los Angeles Clippers

The Pelicans are a streaky team. Their playoff position seemed to be in jeopardy when they lost four straight starting in late March, but they have since won three games in a row, including a huge victory in Golden State on Saturday. It was the first time the Pelicans have beaten the Warriors in the last three seasons.

In their contest with the Clippers on Monday, they face a team that has just been eliminated from the last-second race for a spot in the playoffs. Los Angeles has lost four of its last five games, and is likely to yield to a determined New Orleans squad playing strong basketball.

Wednesday, vs. San Antonio

The Pelicans’ final game of

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