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SPORTS: Oklahoma City Thunder

Countdown To The Playoffs: Nuggets, Grizz Gaining Fast On Clippers

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1. Spurs (51-16) ---

2. Thunder (50-17) 1

3. Clippers (46-21) 5

4. Grizzlies (44-21) 6

5. Nuggets (45-22) 6

6. Warriors (38-30) 13.5

7. Rockets (36-31) 15

8. Lakers (36-32) 15.5

------------------------------

9. Jazz (34-32) 16.5

As the Spurs are set to face the toughest stretch of their season, Oklahoma City might be poised to take over the West's top spot. Meanwhile, the three-team race for the No. 3 seed is closer than ever and the Warriors and Jazz recovered from their worst stretches of the season.

Every Monday, we'll have an updated look at who's doing what as we count down to the playoffs. Here's what's coming up this week around the Western Conference.

Spurs

Last week: 3-1

This week: vs. Warriors | vs. Jazz | @Rockets

The Spurs continue to play well even without Tony Parker at the point, going 3-1 last week including a key win over the second-place Thunder. Things are about to get rough, as 10 of San Antonio's next 11 games are against opponents with winning records.

Thunder

Last week: 3-1

This week: vs. Nuggets | @Grizzlies | @Magic | vs. Blazers

The ugly loss to Parker-less San Antonio certainly didn't hurt OKC's pursuit of the No. 1 seed, but it was far from crushing. The Thunder bounced back with three straight wins to end the week and still sit just one game back of first. OKC has to take advantage of the Spurs' brutal schedule if it wants to snag that top spot.

Clippers

Last week: 1-1

This week: @Kings| vs. 76ers | vs. Nets

Wednesday's loss to surging Memphis didn't do the Clippers any favors as their lead over both the Nuggets and Grizzlies is now just one game. The good news is this week's schedule is as easy as they'll see the rest of the season. If they want to hang on to the No. 3 slot, a 3-0 slate this week would be wise.

Grizzlies

Last week: 2-2

This week: vs. Wolves | vs. Thunder | @Hornets | vs. Celtics

The Grizz started the week 2-0, extending its run to 14 of 15, but back to back losses at Denver and Utah ended the week on a sour note. With that said, nobody wins in Denver so there's no shame in that, and Memphis has a chance to bounce back quickly with a home game against the struggling Wolves.

Nuggets

Last week: 3-0

This week: @Bulls | @Thunder | vs. 76ers | vs. Kings

There is nobody on the planet hotter than the Miami Heat, but there's a mighty close second. The Nuggets' win streak is now 11 and they've won 15 straight in Denver. This week brings trips to Chicago and OKC, and while neither of those sounds fun, they get rewarded with home games against the pathetic Sixers and Kings. Look for the Nuggets to keep on rolling.

Warriors

Last week: 3-1

This week: @Hornets | @Spurs | Wizards

Golden State put it together this week, slamming the breaks on their free-fall (lost 12 of previous 17) by winning three of four. Games against the lowly Hornets and Wizards need to be wins if the Warriors want to hang on to the sixth seed.

Rockets

Last week: 2-1

This week: vs. Jazz | vs. Cavs | vs. Spurs

Houston is clinging to the No. 7 spot as the Lakers continue to breathe down their necks. I can't emphasize enough how badly the Rockets need to avoid the seventh or eighth spots if they want a chance at playoff survival (nobody's beating the Spurs or Thunder) and their current seven-game home-stand is the perfect place to start.

Lakers

Last week: 3-1

This week: @Suns | vs. Wizards

Even with Kobe Bryant out with an ankle problem, the Lakers put together wins over the Pacers and Kings last week. LA has won eight of 10 and is just a half-game behind Houston for the No. 7 seed. Wins over the pitiful Suns and Wizards this week are highly likely, so the Lake-Show might be occupying that seven slot this time next week.

Jazz

Last week: 2-1

This week: vs. Knicks | @Rockets | @Spurs | @Mavericks

The Jazz had lost seven of eight entering the week, dropping them into the No. 9 slot and out of the playoffs. Utah responded, beating Detroit and then shocking the Grizzlies. The 2-1 week proves Utah isn't ready to give up on the playoff race, but considering the schedule ahead, it's hard to see them jumping back into the top eight.

Editor's note: RIP to the Blazers and Mavericks.

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