The top 10 remaining matches in the Western Kick-off Race

For the first time in a long time, it’s as if the majority of the hype in the NBA is in the Eastern Conference. That comes with a playoff race zone in the East crammed together, but as of the 2022 All-Star Break, the two best teams in the NBA are staying in the Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns are 6.5 games ahead of the rest of the league, which is grueling in late February, and the Golden State Warriors were great even while navigating roster challenges. However, the list of interesting teams does not stop at two in the West, and this leads us to a fun, if difficult, practice.

In this space, we’ll highlight the top 10 matches of the second half of the season for the Western Conference. Because of the disconnect at the top, it doesn’t make sense to point the pointer simply at the Suns and Warriors, with very competitive races for the top six and even the top ten. We’ll also be looking to keep an eye on the whole scene, and without further ado, here are ten games any basketball watcher should watch closely in February, March and April.

Feb 25 – Dallas Mavericks @ Utah Jazz – 9:00pm ET – League Card

This could be a 4-5 match in the West and that would be cool. Utah was pretty good when they were at full strength this year, but their mid-season coma had them looking for three teams. Dallas started slow but recovered, and Luka Doncic hasn’t lost his mind now. This game is only a few days away, but it should be fun and meaningful in the elimination race.

Feb 25 – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers – 10:00 PM ET – ESPN

The Clippers and Lakers are eighth and ninth in the West right now, which is really going to pull some juice from this game. It’s still part of the eternal “Battle of Los Angeles” and both teams need victories.

March 5 – Golden State Warriors @ Los Angeles Lakers – 8:30pm ET – ABC

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LeBron James and Stephen Curry play an ABC game on Saturday night. We don’t need to say much more than that, but it makes sense that Draymond Green is back, and the Lakers (as noted above) really need wins. This wouldn’t be easy to get in LA, but it would be fun.

March 8 – New Orleans Pelicans @ Memphis Grizzlies – 7:30 PM ET – TNT

Pelicans are at least fun, but that’s about your chance to see Grizzlies on national TV. We’ll see if Memphis can catch Golden State in second in the West, but even if they can’t, holding off Utah will be important. Both teams should be pushing this one, and Ja Morant is the TV to watch.

March 30 – Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors – 10:00 PM ET – ESPN

Chris Paul will miss this match, which is unfortunate. However, it is a battle between the two biggest teams in the sport, and the top seed is on the road to the match in front of a national audience. It should be on the list, even if there is competition in the same time period.

MARCH 30 – New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers – 10:00 p.m. ET – League Card

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a good fit for this list, but hear me out. For example, CJ McCollum is back in Portland for the first time, and that’s a true story on its own given his contributions to the Blazers franchise. On top of that, this could be a meaningful battle in the gameplay race, as both teams are firmly in the mix when this post is published.

April 1 – Minnesota Timberwolves @ Denver Nuggets – 9:00 PM ET – League Pass

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If we poll casual observers, I don’t think it will be known to everyone that Minnesota is ranked No. 7 in the West at the moment. Wolves are only 2.5 out of the six best games, and yes, they are the Nuggets that Minnesota chases. There’s star power here, and juggling the towns of Nikola Jokic and Karl Anthony is very appetizing.

April 5 – Memphis Grizzlies @ Utah Jazz – 9:00 PM ET – League Card

If a team can chase down Memphis for third place in the West, it will likely be Utah. The Jazz have their own issues, but they are so good when Rudi Gobert and Donovan Mitchell share the field, and the match between Mitchell and Ja Morant is so much fun. It may not be a playoff preview given the two best teams and their superiority in the standings, but these are two of the top four teams in the West.

April 8 – Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz – 9:30 PM ET – NBATV

Paul’s injury could make him out of action at this point, but there is a chance he will be back. Regardless, Phoenix hits the road to take on the Jazz that’s in the top four, and it happens during the final week of the season with real potential fallout. For example, Utah may need a win to stay in the top four, or even climb into the top three, and Phoenix may try to delay Golden State with Paul out for several weeks.

April 10 – Los Angeles Lakers @ Denver Nuggets – TBD

April 10 is the last day of the regular season, so, technically speaking, this game might be meaningless. Right now, that doesn’t seem likely, though, as the Lakers will need every win they can get and the Nuggets mid-race. Can you imagine a scenario where the Lakers would need to win to avoid a 9-10 game? What about Nikola Jokic’s final MVP batch?