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NBA: Western Conference update

While the Eastern Conference has proven to be incredibly top-heavy this season, there's an incredibly tight Play-off battle being waged in the west.

The Denver Nuggets are out in front and set for top seed in the postseason, but after that it's anyone's call.

With just 4.5 games between the fourth-placed Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz down in 12th, the Western Conference run-in should be packed with drama.

Not only are sides pushing to make the Play-offs, but they are chasing home advantage too. The Sacramento Kings are the only west side with an above .500 record on the road, so home seeding is vital.

Durant racing to get in Suns' groove

After his blockbuster switch to Arizona at the trade deadline, Kevin Durant pushed the Suns out as the side to beat in the Western Conference. Phoenix are 17/4 To Win Outright the NBA Championship and 12/5 to claim the Western Conference spoils, but the KD gamble hasn't paid off yet.

Durant injured himself warming up for the Suns' clash with the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month. In the aftermath, the franchise said he'd be re-evaluated in three weeks, which takes us to the end of March.

If KD is passed fit then, he'll be able to link up with his Suns' teammates for the final 10 days of the regular season.

That doesn't leave much time for him to get some cohesion on the court with Chris Paul and Devin Booker, which could hurt their Play-off hopes. After all, just look at how selection issues downed Durant's hopes with the Brooklyn Nets.

Without KD the Suns fell to a 123-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday and that's who they'd meet in the first round if the season ended right now.

There's every chance the Suns begin to slip without KD, which could cost them fourth and home advantage in the first round.

Having suffered a 20th away defeat of the season on Monday, Phoenix needs a boost in the run-in.

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Where do the Kings go from here?

The story of the season in the west has to be the Sacramento Kings, who lit the beam for the 40th time this season last week.

Despite having the longest Play-off drought across all of the US major leagues, the Kings have been the feel-good story of the year.

They're all but guaranteed a post-season return, but at 28/1 they're a bigger price To Win the Western Conference than the sixth-seed LA Clippers, the eight-seeded Mavs and the ninth-placed Lakers.

Sides are likely to target sixth to meet the Kings, rather than landing a clash with the Suns or Warriors. However, Sacramento have been fantastic at home this season and with 121.3 points-per-game they lead the league offensively.

The Kings are already a success story, but that doesn't mean they're done yet. Having been one of the most consistent sides in the west this season, expect to see the beam in the postseason too.

Can the Doncic/Irving fit work in Dallas?

The Dallas Mavericks have been without Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving for the last two games, losing both against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Mavs were always a side that relied heavily on Luka, but the departures of Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson has hit their depth.

The Mavs have already had a rocky time since moving for Kyrie, having lost nine of their last 12 games. However, there were signs that the Luka and Kyrie fit was working before the pair picked up injuries.

The Mavs have slipped to eighth after that run and they're just 0.5 games clear of the Thunder in 11th.

Dallas' decision to move their strongest defender for a second primary ball-handler was always going to be a massive gamble, but now there's no margin for error.

Do the Lakers need LeBron to make the Play-offs?

After being celebrated for breaking the scoring record during the All-Star break, LeBron James said the LA Lakers' final games were among the most important in his career. Thanks to injury, he's featured in just two of them.

LeBron has missed their last seven games, but Anthony Davis has helped them to a 4-3 run in those contests. That's moved them into the Play-in picture, with the Lakers sat in ninth.

If LeBron can get back on the court quickly, the Lakers could start to cut the 2.5-game gap to the Clippers. However, this is a franchise which hasn't had a .500 record since January 2022, so they could miss out on the postseason.

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