Best of the West

Apr 12, 2005 3:49 AM

The West has a lot of talented teams that will be rubbing elbows soon in the NBA playoffs. Here’s a look at the elite.

San Antonio: Defensively, the Spurs allow just 42 percent shooting (second in the league) and an NBA best 87 ppg. The key will be getting center Tim Duncan back. The Spurs are 35-3 SU, 23-14 ATS and 24-14 "under" the total at home where they yield 84 ppg. The +9½-point differential per game is No. 1 in the NBA.

Phoenix: Steve Nash was the missing piece of the puzzle. The Suns run opponents into the ground, scoring a league best 110 ppg. The Phoenix run-and-gun attack is tough to defend and shoots 48 percent from the field (No. 2) and an NBA high 38 percent from three-point land.The Suns are a remarkable 30-8 SU, 22-14 ATS on the road, and 45-27 "over" the total.

Dallas: The Mavericks are becoming healthy at the right time, getting center Erick Dampier back last week. Dirk Nowitzki, sixth-man Jerry Stackhouse and guard Mike Finley anchor a talented unit that started an impressive 25-12 SU, 22-14 ATS on the road. Dallas is also 9-6 SU, 11-4 ATS as an underdog.

Denver: This team struggled in the first half with injuries and unhappiness. Then along came the savior on a white horse — George Karl! Right now he can do no wrong with the Nuggets, which recently went on a 19-2 SU, 17-3-1 ATS run. Karl would love to bottle that up for April and May.

Houston: The Rockets have had a fine season with Yao Ming and newcomer Tracy McGrady, but have been inconsistent. Houston beat Miami as a home dog, but lost as a favorite against Boston and New Orleans in recent weeks. This is a tough defensive team, allowing 42.4 percent shooting, third best in the NBA. Houston is also an impressive 22-15 SU, 20-15 ATS on the road.

Memphis: The Grizzlies have a deep, versatile team with a strangling defense under first-year coach Mike Fratello. Memphis allows 90½ ppg, third best in the league, which explains the 47-25 "under" record versus the posted total. The Grizzlies are also 25-11 "under" the total at home.

Sacramento: It’s been a year of year of changes, the biggest being the trade of Chris Webber. Sacramento still has stars Peja Stojakovic and sparkplug Mike Bibby, but needs underrated injured center Brad Miller back for the postseason. Sacramento is just 18-19 SU, 16-20 ATS on the road.

Seattle: Another talented team needing to get healthy before the playoffs. Forwards Rashard Lewis and sixth man Vladimir Radmanovic have had foot injuries and are key cogs. Coach Nate McMillan has done a terrific job, guiding the Sonics to a 25-11 SU record. Don’t underestimate this bunch. Seattle is 17-9 SU/ATS as an underdog!