The Western Conference remains a pretty bunched-up group, with seven games separating the top eight teams. As teams approach their 50th game of the season and February looms, here’s a look at what’s going on with the top teams in the West. Make sure to check out our expert NBA picks as well.
1. Denver Nuggets (+200 to Win Western Conference)
They dropped in a real stinker last week, falling by a whopping 38 points in New York. But that was Denver’s only loss in the last six games and the Knicks are running roughshod over everybody right now, so who cares?
A sweep of a two-game homestand against Philadelphia and Milwaukee matters much more in the grand scheme of things. The Sixers were without their two stars and the Bucks were breaking in a new head coach, but who cares?
Denver just motors on. It has played its ideal starting five in 14 straight games and we keep hammering home how much comfort that gives everyone in the long run. In fact, that quintet has played more minutes together than any other in the league, nearly 100 more than Oklahoma City’s best five and nearly 200 more than Minnesota’s optimal starting group.
Come playoffs, in a tight spot, having a championship unit with so much familiarity with one another can only help. Remember that when making a long-term bet online at our sportsbook.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (+300)
They’re actually still fourth in the standings, but the margin is so small among the top four. The Clippers have four games remaining on their current seven-game homestand and the opponents (Washington, Detroit, Miami, and Atlanta) leave something to be desired.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 30, 2024
Sure, they took one on the chin Monday at Cleveland, but the Cavaliers are perhaps the hottest team in the league. Los Angeles was coming off a beatdown of the Celtics in Boston, so we can forgive a setback in a tough environment, especially given the fact that it was a four-point game in the final two minutes.
That’s just the fifth loss since the start of December for the Clippers. Size up the NBA basketball point spread sheet for Wednesday’s action and expect them to roll at Washington.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves (+850)
They’re back on top of the West entering Tuesday’s play, so we’ve bumped them back up to third this week. Just a small nod in recognition of a hard-fought win at Oklahoma City on Monday, outsourcing the host Thunder 34-24 in the fourth.
That victory capped a solid 3-1 road trip for the Timberwolves, who get to play 10 of their next 15 at home. That’s an opportunity to pile up some victories and perhaps maintain the top spot in the standings going into March.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (+750)
Several weeks ago we wondered about a tough portion of the schedule and how it might impact the young Thunder. There’s no alarm bells or anything, but the crew has lost two in a row for the third time this month (nothing but wins otherwise), and the first of the current losing streak was a 16-point setback at Detroit.
That result, at the very least, had to prompt a little bit of head-scratching. A big test with Denver at home on Wednesday gives this talented group a chance to hit the reset button.
Drivin’ fast in downtown OKC 🏎️ pic.twitter.com/FiAIxwg1TP
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 30, 2024
5. Phoenix Suns (+650)
Like the Clippers, the Suns are working their way through a lengthy road trip. They’re 2-2 so far, scoring a solid win at reeling Miami on Monday by a 118-105 score.
Devin Booker isn’t mentioned much in MVP circles and probably would be second on his own team behind Kevin Durant, but he’s been at that level recently and has been a fringe candidate in the past. The dynamic guard is averaging a whopping 38.3 points over his last seven games and very quietly has the best scoring average of his career.
Phoenix needs a depth piece or two to help Booker and Durant out. They’re about as good as anyone out there when everyone is healthy and clicking, but there’s not a big margin for error and the lowest-scoring bench in the league can be an issue. Keep an eye on the NBA news cycle to see if and when they get some reinforcements. If so, watch out in April and May.
Questions Of The Day
Which West team has the easiest remaining schedule?
The Suns will enjoy a relatively easy stretch run, based on the winning percentage for remaining opponents. Only Portland has an easier slate from now on.
Which team has been the biggest surprise in the West?
Utah has turned some heads with solid play lately. They looked early on like they’d be fighting it out with Portland and San Antonio, but a play-in spot is there for the taking and perhaps even a top-six spot with a surge here and there.