Once again, the Western Conference is a gantlet. Five teams are separated by only six games between the No. 6 seed and two spots removed from the playoff picture. Four of those teams (Nos. 6-9) are separated by only two games. With teams at the top of this logjam struggling a bit and trailing teams red hot, the Western playoff race is hitting its stride.
Let's take a closer look, starting with our lock to make the playoffs from this group (seeding after Sunday's games in parentheses):
Warriors (6): Golden State has lost a lot of baffling games, the latest being Sunday's matinee vs. the Raptors. That's a tough schedule spot for any team, but the Warriors make a habit of it. Still, being two games up with their talent, it's nearly inconceivable that they miss the postseason. If they do, expect changes at the top.
Battling in the trenches
Mavericks (8): Dallas has the least long-term momentum and the most short-term momentum. The Mavs' defense is atrocious (22nd in points allowed per possession). But their offense is good, and Dirk Nowitzki has had a truly remarkable month. It's looking more and more like Dallas makes it, but it may also have the highest chance of an absolute nose-dive if the offense hits a speed bump.
Suns (7): The league's surprise darlings are finding things more difficult as teams have now scouted their personnel and schemes. Getting Eric Bledsoe back would be a big boost, and this team has been so consistent, you have to like its chances. Still, Phoenix is the team with the least experience and least star power. Is the clock striking midnight for Cinderella?
Grizzlies (9): This veteran team blew apart the first month of the season but has played the best of any team since Jan. 1. Memphis has gotten big boosts from roster changes, including James Johnson and Courtney Lee. A rough schedule stretch quelled some momentum, but this team has the veteran experience, defensive acumen and talent to hang. With a mixed strength-of-schedule in March, the Grizzlies have a chance to push back into the spot of a team above them ... if they can stay healthy, their biggest struggle.
Timberwolves (10): The Wolves have disappointed, and now are the kid trying to turn in their homework late. Trailing the No. 8 seed by 5½ games, the Wolves have won five of six. They need a monster push and a collapse by one of the teams at the top (and the Grizzlies to tail off) to get in. It'll be tough, but the talent is there. Kevin Love has played at an MVP level, and they seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. Is it too late?
Now that we're up to speed there, here are this week's Power Rankings: