The NBA season is coming down the home stretch, which means it’s the right time to get hot. A well-placed hot streak can turn a borderline playoff team into a title contender as we’ve seen in years past with the 1999 New York Knicks and 1995 Houston Rockets. However, there’s also potential for the opposite to occur when NBA teams fall flat at the wrong time.
This list will examine teams that are limping through the last month of the season. Some, like the Indiana Pacers, may lose playoff berths as a result. Others, such as the New Orleans Pelicans, have their futures on the line and the odds aren’t looking too good. Just as getting hot at the right time can result in title contention, struggling at the wrong time can mangle a team’s outlook for the present and future.
Take the 2015 Los Angeles Clippers as a recent example. With 2:35 to go in the third quarter of Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, they were up 89-70 in the game and 3-2 in the series against the Houston Rockets. A matchup with the Golden State Warriors with a potential Finals berth appeared to be theirs for the taking. Then they got cold, and the Rockets got hot. Houston ended up winning the game and the series, ending the Clippers’ chances of winning a title — not just for that team, but likely for the entire Chris Paul Era.
The teams fading down the stretch on this list might end up being less consequential than those, but they could shape the way we think about each team for a long time.