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And Down the Stretch they Come…

Published: April 7, 2011

Four games left to go in the regular season, four teams in the mix for possible playoff matchup. With just six days until the regular season concludes, the Hornets have punched their ticket into the dance, but have no idea who their partner will be. The Spurs have clinched the #1 seed and LA has all but secured the second spot, but all of a sudden, OKC is hot on the trails of the Dallas Mavericks for the third seed.

The bottom of the bracket sees Denver as the likely fifth seed, with Memphis, Portland, and the Hornets all fighting for positions six through eight. The good news for the Hornets is that they hold the tiebreaker over both of these teams, but the bad news is that they may very well have the toughest schedule of the three as well. It is no secret that Hornets fans would prefer a matchup with Dallas, and the only way that has a chance of happening is if both teams can hold their current positions.

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedules, along with the key games that could decide the final draw.

Dallas Mavericks- 4 games (3 home, 1 away)

vs. LAC, vs. Phoenix, @ Houston, vs. New Orleans

Schedule Outlook- Dallas will play their next three games against teams with nothing to play for before hosting New Orleans on the final day of the regular season. Dallas is currently 1 game ahead of OKC AND owns the tie-breaker, meaning that 3-1 will clinch the #3 seed for them or going 2-2 if OKC loses just one game will clinch it as well.

Oklahoma City- 4 games (2 home, 2 away)

vs. Denver, @LA, @ Sacramento, Milwaukee

Schedule Outlook: Obviously OKC faces two tough tests in their next two games, but they might catch a break because LA no longer has a chance at the #1 seed. They will likely have to go 4-0 to catch Dallas, otherwise they will face Denver in what might be the most interesting opening round series.

Portland Trailblazers- 4 games (2 home, 2 away)

@Utah, vs.LA, vs.Memphis, @Golden State

Schedule Outlook: Like OKC, Portland might be catching LA at a good time. Their biggest game, however will be the penultimate one against Memphis, as it will decide who gets the tiebreaker, should these two finish with the same record.

Memphis Grizzlies- 4 games (2 home, 2 away)

vs. Sacramento, vs. New Orleans, @ Portland, @ LAC

Schedule Outlook: Memphis matches up with both of the teams that they are fighting for position with in the next week, and although they have the potential to snatch away the tiebreaker from Portland, the Hornets will own the tiebreaker regardless of what happens in their game. That said, a 4-0 stretch lands Memphis the #6 seed, so they are in full control of their destiny in that regard.

New Orleans Hornets- 4 games (2 home, 2 away)

vs. Phoenix, @Memphis, vs. Utah, @ Dallas

Schedule Outlook: The key game in this stretch is the matchup against Memphis, as it is a two game swing depending on who wins that game. A win in Memphis would all but ensure that the Hornets stay ahead of the Grizzlies, seeing that the Hornets have the tiebreaker. If the Hornets are lucky, Dallas will have locked up the third seed by the final night and will rest their players in preparation for the playoffs. 4-0 guarantees the #6 seed, as does 3-1 if both Portland and Memphis lose one time (and one HAS to when they meet on April 12th)

Key Games to Watch:

– All of the Hornets games of course!

Friday, April 8:

Denver @ OKC

Why: If Denver wins this game, Dallas will pretty much lock up the #3 seed. That benefits the Hornets in two ways: Dallas will rest their guys in the final game and a potential 3 vs. 6 matchup.

Lakers @ Portland

Why: This is easily the toughest game remaining on Portland’s schedule. If they win this one, it is a distinct possibility that they could win out, which would force the Hornets to do the same in order to secure the sixth seed.

Sunday, April 10

OKC @ Lakers

Why: Hornets are rooting for a Lakers win here for the reason stated for the last OKC game PLUS it practically guarantees Dallas does not catch LA for the #2 seed (which would give Dallas something to play for).

Tuesday, April 12

Memphis @ Portland

Why: Depending on how the days leading up to this play out, the Hornets could have a lot of interest in this game. The Hornets have the tiebreakers over both, so they will simply have to root against whichever team is ahead of them at the time (if either are).

Bottom Line:

If the Hornets handle their business and go 4-0 and Dallas avoids choking their lead to OKC away, we will have the matchup we all want. However, the game at Memphis will be tough and if the Hornets slip up there, they will be rooting for Portland to take Memphis down on the 12th. 3-1 probably gets the Hornets the sixth seed, but who wants that kind of anxiety. Let’s just Geaux 4-0!

Also, Check out Mikey’s latest post, Hornets guarantee winning record in SW Division with win over Rockets


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