Apr 18, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets power forward Luis Scola (4) shoots the ball over Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during the third quarter at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Rockets 117-110. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
With only four games left and outside the Western Conference's eight seeds, it's "win out or go home."
If I had to put money on the line, I'd bet that the Jazz will hold on to the 8th seed in the West and make the playoffs over the Rockets. They currently lead the Rockets by just 1/2 a game, but own the tiebreaker over Houston and all of their remaining games are at home. The Rockets did get some help from Oklahoma City last night when they beat Phoenix, and I think the Suns will continue to fall with games against the Clippers, Spurs, Nuggets, and Jazz remaining.
So to me this comes down to Jazz or Rockets. The Rockets remaining schedule is pretty soft with two games against New Orleans, plus games vs. Golden State, and Miami's B-team (they have the 2nd seed locked up, I'm guessing they'll be resting starters on April 22nd). The Rockets are capable of winning out and getting to 36 wins, but will need the Jazz to lose a game to make the playoffs. Utah's 3 remaining games are against Phoenix, Orlando, and Portland; all at home. If I had to pick the best opportunity for them to slip up and lose one, it'd be Phoenix. If Dwight Howard returns, maybe the Magic game could be a loss too, but he'll probably be resting until the playoffs start. The best case scenario for the Rockets would be for them to win out, the Suns beat the Jazz on April 24th, and then the Suns lose to the Clippers, Nuggets, or Spurs. It's certainly possible, but the Jazz will probably win out. Another year picking at #14; the best darn lottery team in the NBA!