But at the moment, after Dallas has turned the magic back on in some key games, Atlanta nearly has the East's last spot buttoned up, and the Portlands, Indianas, and New Jerseys of the world have dutifully faded, there will likely only be just one playoff spot at stake over the last few days of the season.
That's the eighth spot in the West, and it's a dog fight between Golden State and Denver.
(Dallas, which now has Dirk Nowitzki back, is two games ahead of Golden State and Denver in the loss column. Two of the Mavericks' five remaining games are against patsy Seattle, and another is against banged-up Portland, which is mired in a season-long losing streak.)
Golden State and Denver are currently tied.
John Hollinger's playoff odds predictor likes the Warriors -- who play four out of five games at home the rest of the way. Hollinger's machine calls Golden State 63% likely to make the playoffs, as opposed to 38% for the Nuggets.
The two teams meet at Golden State this Thursday. Denver also has road games at the Clippers and Jazz, as well as at home against Memphis and Houston.
The Warriors are home against Sacramento, Denver, the Clippers, and Seattle. Their lone road game left is at the Suns.
Most likely it comes down to that game on Thursday.
But ... one last thing to think about.
Last week, ESPN analyst and trainer of NBA players David Thorpe wrote an amazing piece in which he identified NBA veterans that younger players would be wise to emulate. What was so great about this story is that the advice is real: I know from conversations with Thorpe that he routinely has the players he trains watch and mimic certain players.
Thorpe wrote that he'd like Kevin Durant to be more like Allen Iverson:
I'd like to see Durant display the same incredible fire that Iverson shows when he plays. No, it's not A.I.'s handle or quickness that I wish Durant would emulate, it's that never-ending supply of "I'm going to single-handedly crush the other team" A.I. plays with every night that could catapult KD into superstar status immediately. Durant played this way oftentimes in college, but doing it for 82-plus games against grown men is a far tougher challenge.
If Thorpe's right, that Iverson is the guy to put the magic in Durant's game, then I say the Nuggets should get Coach Iverson on the phone with pupil Durant immediately. Tell the kid everything you know, Bubba Chuck!
If the Nuggets are going to make the playoffs, they could use help, and no team is better positioned to help than the Sonics. The Nuggets don't face Seattle again, but Dallas does twice and the Warriors do once. That means nearly a third of the remaining games for Denver's rivals are against this one team.
If the Sonics were to somehow go on a wicked winning streak here to close the season -- they got a nice start (and a good write-up) against those very same Nuggets last night -- Hollinger's machine would surely paint a far rosier picture for the Denver Nuggets.