NBA’s best down to 3

Apr 5, 2005 9:50 AM

The NBA enters its final month before the playoffs with top seed in the league Phoenix starting the week 1½ games up on Miami and two ahead of San Antonio.

The Suns have won eight of their last 10 games and in great position to go from missing the playoffs with a 29-53 record to the best mark in the league.

The off season signing of Steve Nash has had that effect, however, and it can easily be argued that a grave injustice will occur if Nash does not win the MVP.

Phoenix, San Antonio, Seattle and Dallas have each clinched playoff spots in the West and are likely to be seeded in that order. Dallas has a five game gap over fifth seeded Sacramento, which begins the week just 1½ games ahead of Houston.

Miami is about to wrap up the top seed in the East, with Detroit also on the verge of securing the second spot. The winner of the Atlantic, currently led by Boston, will be the third seed regardless of how many runner ups in other divisions finish with better records. Chicago and Washington start the week tied for the all important fourth seed.

Chicago begins the week as the NBA’s current hot team, winners of nine in a row.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Suns at Warriors (Fri): The recent play of Golden State makes this a compelling matchup. Both teams have plenty of offense and will want to run the court. The Suns depth gives them an edge but Golden State continues to play with enthusiasm. The trade for Baron Davis has provided court leadership. GOLDEN ST.

Celtics at Nets (Sat): Both teams are playing well with the Nets having the greater sense of urgency. New Jersey is likely to be a small favorite. The teams have split home meetings this season, both played since mid January. They will close the season facing one another in Boston so the Nets need to make up ground. NEW JERSEY.

Pistons at Heat (Sun): The teams have split their only two meetings of the season, both played several months ago. The Heat were still getting acclimated to the tandem of Dywane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. Miami might want to use this game as a statement to the NBA defending champions. Expect both teams to place a great emphasis on the defensive end. The total may be in the 170’s, which might not be low enough. UNDER.

Last week: 0-3
Season: 31-33