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Rockets May Be Big Winners From Kobe Injury

Randolph_WebThe Houston Rockets may have had a big night on Wednesday. Not only did the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers both lose, (the only two teams that have a real chance to keep them out of the playoffs) but the Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant severely sprained his left ankle and is out indefinitely. The Rockets moved to one and a half games up on the Lakers with a 111-81 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday while their chief competitors both lost. With Bryant out and the Jazz facing a tough schedule next week, this is a big chance for the Rockets to put a little distance between themselves and the dreaded ninth position in the Western Conference.

The Rockets have their next six games at home beginning Friday night with the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Wednesday they host the Jazz in what will be a big game in the playoff chase. There will be four potential playoff teams coming to visit the Rockets on the home stand.

Another Southwest Division team making noise is the Memphis Grizzlies after taking over the third spot in the West on Wednesday. Memphis beat their nemesis, the Los Angeles Clippers 96-85. The win puts the Grizzlies one half game up on the Clippers who fell to 45-21 while Memphis improved to 44-19. The Clippers are only one game up on the fifth place Denver Nuggets which would mean they would lose home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The sixth place team is the tough Golden State Warriors, so getting the third spot is not necessarily a guarantee of first round success. But the Grizzlies and Clippers would certainly like to avoid the Nuggets in the first round, especially if they have to play them on the road four times.

The San Antonio Spurs continue to lead the Southwest Division, but their lead over the Grizzlies has slipped to four games as they continue to play without star point guard Tony Parker. The Spurs no longer have the fewest losses in the NBA as the Miami Heat has won 20 straight games and is now 49-14 while the Spurs are 49-16. The Spurs lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the West has also shrunk to one game. The Thunder is now 48-17 on the season after thumping the Jazz on Wednesday night.

The playoff races in the NBA could not be any tighter and the top three teams in the Southwest are right in the thick of them. Keep your eyes on this division because these three teams can all make some noise in the playoffs.

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