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How the West Was Won

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/09/2008

There is one heck of a battle out west. Two battles, really, one between the Hornets, Spurs and Lakers for the No. 1 seed, and one between the Mavericks, Nuggets and Warriors for the No. 7 and 8 slots. EVERY game between those last three teams are must-win game the rest of the season.

Dallas is in the best shape of all. The Mavericks play three home games, 2 road games, three against teams with losing records. They also just got Dirk Nowitzki back and went on a 3-1 SU/ 4-0 ATS run after Sunday's come-from-behind 105-98 victory. The wounded Nowitzki, having put up a game-high 32 points and 12 rebounds, was sprawled on a training table after the game, his sprained left ankle and both knees wrapped in ice packs. It's become routine. They are playing some defense, too, on a 3-1 run under the total.

And speaking of defense, the Nuggets AREN’T playing any, on a 5-0 run over the total. They are also playing their worst basketball of the season, losing two straight games as favorites of 16 and 13 points! The Nuggets weren't happy after the Seattle SuperSonics pulled off the shocker of the day — a 151-147 double-overtime victory Sunday. This was a terrible way to follow up the loss to Sacramento, but the Nuggets have no choice but to shake it off and focus in on a huge week of games.

The Nuggets also lost Saturday to the Sacramento Kings, a lottery-bound team playing without two of its top players. In the 118-115 sputtering, Denver had possession on the final play, with plans to go to J.R. Smith for the potential game-tying 3-pointer. But Smith's desperate heave bounced off the rim, and the Nuggets lost a game that could very well determine whether or not they make the playoffs. "It's just unacceptable," said Denver guard Allen Iverson, who scored just 13 points, about half his season average. "There's just no excuse for it."

The schedule is actually against them, too, playing 3 straight road games this week. Playing at Golden State Thursday will be difficult, and even worst Saturday playing at Utah. Utah has been a dominant team at home while Golden State is also fighting for that last playoff spot. Will those three road games tire Denver out? Denver is 15-23 SU, 18-20 ATS on the road, where they play no defense, allowing 112 ppg. The Nuggets are 23-15 over the total on the road.

Golden State is in better shape, playing 3 straight home games this week, and 4 of their final 5 at home. Golden State has been cold shooting, going 3-for-29 dud from long distance after shooting 38 percent overall in San Antonio and Dallas in losses on Tuesday and Wednesday.

One problem has been that the Warriors have no other form of offense if their outside shots aren't falling. So Coach Don Nelson said he wants more screen-and-rolls to get the ball to Donta Ellis over the final 5 games. Golden State has almost all home games remaining. The Warriors are 25-12 straight up at home, though just 14-23 ATS. That Thursday meeting with Denver is going to be huge with a playoff atmosphere. Oddly, Golden State is on a 10-3 run under the total. For the record, the visiting team is 2-1 SU, 3-0 ATS when they’ve met this season, with the under prevailing at 2-1. Will they bring their best defensive game in such a crucial late season matchup?

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