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NBA's wild, wild West overpowering East: 'It's not even close'

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 4 days ago Martin Rogers
Russell Westbrook. © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC Russell Westbrook.

The Utah Jazz came into the season tipped for good things and a possible deep run in the playoffs. Last week they picked up one of the NBA’s best sharpshooters of the modern era in Kyle Korver. They have the second-most road wins in the league.

All good, right?

Kind of, except that the Jazz also enter Thursday night's game against Houston in 12th place in the Western Conference.

Welcome to life in the wild, wild West, a conference where you don’t even have to be bad in order to look really, really bad.

“It is a tough house to live in, man,” Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. 

As of Thursday, in matchups between teams from rival conferences, the West bested the East by a margin of 82-52.

That’s not a blip, it’s factual proof of what we already knew, that the West is stronger, deeper and just better than its counterpart.

“I can’t remember a time when it was as one-sided as this,” Shaquille O’Neal told USA TODAY Sports recently. “It’s not even close.”

All of which has turned the West into a place where chaos reigns, even little more than a quarter of the way through the season.

However, don’t feel too sorry for teams like the Jazz, 12-13 overall and 9-7 on the road, because even the briefest surge would not only lift them from near the foot of the ladder but put them firmly in playoff position. They're just one game behind the eighth-place Dallas Mavericks, for example.

Meanwhile, a record of 11-13 is enough to put the Charlotte Hornets in a presumptive playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, while an 11-12 mark leaves last season’s Western Conference near-champion Houston languishing in 13th. That’s how tough, and how tight, it is in the West.

No one really knows who to blame for it, although having basketball’s best player switch  coasts and immediately revitalize the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t do anything to alleviate the issue.

“It’s made the West considerably harder,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of LeBron James’ move from Cleveland. “Because the Lakers are now in the thick of the playoff picture.”

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He was right about the Lakers, but things can go either way. L.A. might rue having thrown away opportunities, as two more wins would have seen it stand proudly atop the West this week. On the flip side, the Lakers are only 3 ½ games up on the team eight spots below them, the Rockets.

Perhaps things will even out over time, but don’t count on it, at least not if last season is anything to go by. Back then, just three wins out of 82 games separated third-seeded Portland and the Denver Nuggets, who missed out on the playoffs altogether.

And that was before LeBron showed up, before Golden State's struggles seemed to bring them back to the field and before Houston got sloppy and San Antonio got weaker.

The West, it seems, just keeps getting wilder, with the only certainty being that margins are slim and uncertainty rules.

Follow Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA's wild, wild West overpowering East: 'It's not even close'

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