The Orlando Magic have been surging recently and have wrestled the eighth seed away from the Charlotte Hornets in the Eastern Conference. At the top of the East, the Milwaukee Bucks have clinched a playoff berth and continue to hold off the Toronto Raptors for the first seed.
In the Western Conference, LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers have fallen to 4.5 games back from the eighth seed. As the Los Angeles Clippers seek to overtake the San Antonio Spurs for the seventh seed, the battle for positioning heats up with only 3 games separating eighth position from third and potentially home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers – Monday 4th March 2019
The Lakers have been sinking of late, 3-7 in their last 10 games and on a two-game losing streak it is looking increasingly likely that they will miss the playoffs when the season ends. Perhaps most telling was the body language of LeBron James throughout their loss to the last placed Phoenix Suns on Saturday. His frustration was made clear for all to see as he gesticulated towards teammates during timeouts.
When the Clippers traded Tobias Harris to the 76ers, some thought they had given up on their playoff hopes and were just looking for the best possible draft position. That has not been the case, sitting 6-4 in their last 10, the Clippers currently hold the eighth seed and have the same amount of wins as the San Antonio Spurs (35).
Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers – Tuesday 5th March 2019
Only the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons (8-2) have a better record than the Orlando Magic (7-3) over their last 10 games in the East. Heading into the week the Orlando Magic hold the eighth spot in the East. All-Star Centre Nikola Vucevic continues to dominate for the Magic as he averages a 20.6 points and 12 rebounds per game. The game against the 76ers will be a major test for the Orlando club and a chance to prove they belong in the playoff conversation.
For the 76ers, they are still chasing the third seeded Indiana Pacers. They are just a half game back. A win over the Magic will also put some extra space between themselves and the Boston Celtics as they seek to pick up home court advantage early in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Denver Nuggets @ Golden State Warriors – Friday 8th March 2019
The marquee game of the week sees the first placed Warriors host the second placed Nuggets in the Western Conference. The Nuggets have won 15 of their 29 games on the road this season, but have dropped their last two contests and they have fallen 1.5 games back from the Golden State Warriors. A win over their conference rivals will put the pressure back on their opponents as they look to snatch the top seed away come the end of the season.
The Warriors can stamp their authority over the Western Conference with an impressive performance against the Nuggets on Friday. It would increase their lead over the Nuggets and help them along their quest to hold onto the first seed. DeMarcus Cousins continues his development as he returns from his Achilles injury and will be seriously tested by Nikola Jokic in this match-up.
By Sonny Cohen