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The Friendly Charter Flights

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A 4-1 road trip is far better than could've been expected.

A week ago, the Kings still had the second-worst road record in the Western Conference, better only than the putrid Portland Trailblazers.

Today, the Kings stand with a better road record than four Western teams, all because a great road trip. (The teams? Portland, Minnesota, Seattle and Golden State.)

The biggest development outside of Sacramento's team charter over the last week, as far playoff positioning goes, has been New Orleans/Oklahoma City's remarkably predictable slide back to reality.

The Hornets have lost four straight, including a game in New Orleans last night to the Lakers.

Now the Hornets are holding on with the Lakers in a virtual tie for the seventh and eighth spots, with two teams (the Kings and winners of four-straight Houston) breathing fire behind them and another (the pace-keeping through the easy part of the schedule Utah Jazz) right there as well.

Anout three weeks ago, I predicted the playoff shakedown in the West. The jist was:

  1. San Antonio
  2. Phoenix
  3. Denver
  4. Dallas
  5. LA Clippers
  6. NOOCH
  7. Sactown
  8. Utah
Right now, the reality is...
  1. San Antonio
  2. Phoenix
  3. Denver
  4. Dallas
  5. LA Clippers
  6. Memphis
  7. NOOCH
  8. LA Lakers
I think I got Memphis and NOOCH wrong. Who knew The Birdman was this valuable to that squad? And who knew Bobby Jackson having his worst season and Chucky Atkins having a season no less mediocre than previously years could hold the Grizzez in the race (and with a decent chance at getting to the second round).

Other than that, I'm rather confident in my picks. I'm convinced the Kings will catch the Lakers. I'm convinced Utah, the Lakers and the Rockets will be in a dogfight to the end (with perhaps Sacramento in that mix as well). I give Utah, with their fantastic defense and a great superstar who should stay healthy, the advantage. I'm even more convinced that San Antonio will end up with homecourt and Phoenix will (obviously) hold off the Clippers.

I'll have my thoughts on the homestand later today, though you can assume I think it's as important as the road trip was, considering two of the opponents are direct competitors in the playoff race.