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Just look at the Western Conference standings right now, with seven teams (within five games of each other) vying for the final two spots in the playoffs as we head into the regular season's home stretch. Not one of these teams is a viable championship contender. The Mavericks, Suns and Spurs are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. And not one of these teams looks like a good bet to pull a Nuggets-over-Sonics-in-'94-style upset, either. The clubs that get in will just be lambs for the slaughter, sacrificial virgins bound to the ceremonial pyre. So what constitutes a moral victory for each club? What, short of winning the whole enchilada, would be enough to feed their souls and the souls of their faithful?
|It's taking the Nuggets longer than we thought to figure this out.|
The Clips' path to moral victory is simple and corny (in a good way): Win for Shaun. The club has survived a truckload of injuries this season -- to Elton Brand, Sam Cassell and others -- and managed to somehow stay in the hunt despite wicked blow after wicked blow to their chemistry and rotation. Now they can be unified, gallantly, in their affection for the kid. And while it won't be enough to get even a sniff of the crown, it will be enough to make them everybody's sentimental favorite in the first round.
|David West is one of the most underrated players in the NBA.|
|Kevin Martin should keep Kings fans smiling for a long time.|