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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 12

Lakers vs Cavaliers: Week 12's prediction for the NBA Finals.

With the season about half over now, plenty of teams are worthy of attention. Who would have thought the Bobcats would be #5, especially after a 39-point obliteration of Miami? Memphis is knocking on the door out West, and New Orleans, New York, and Milwaukee aren’t that far out either. The Celtics can’t hold a 3rd quarter lead to save their life, and the Nets are on pace to break the NBA-worst record of nine wins in a season, with six. If nothing else, it would be fun to see such a low record broken so emphatically. In a world where the Celtics are still somehow the NBA’s third best team, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, January 20 at 10:45pm (sans the late games):

West:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #8 Houston Rockets

The Rockets are barely hanging onto a spot, beating out Utah via tiebreakers. L.A. has a muscular 23-3 home record, which should be more than enough to hold the day. But remember what these two did in the second round last year? Houston is a lower seed this year and is without their star, Yao Ming. Last year will stay last year.

#2 Dallas Mavericks vs. #7 Phoenix Suns

Dallas picked up a big win in Boston (who hasn’t?) and barely beat Washington by one, while the Suns have lost their last four. When these two met last year late to help determine who made it into the playoffs, Phoenix lost and then fell quite far. This year, they’re trying their best not to wait.

#3 Denver Nuggets vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Both teams have won their last three. However, Denver is substantially better playing within the conference (14-8 vs. 9-14). Denver is only 8-11 on the road, but at 18-3 in Denver, Oklahoma might have a very difficult time picking off a game on the road.

#4 San Antonio Spurs vs. #5 Portland Trailblazers

Here’s another classic example where home teams will have a distinct advantage. San Antonio only has a half-game lead, so this series could still go to anyone. Portland has won both meetings this year, which gives them an interesting advantage in their own right.

East:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 Chicago Bulls

Cleveland has been great at home and away, while the Bulls have only been 4-14 away from Chicago. 32-11 vs. 18-21. A few more losses than last season, but Cleveland is still looking great. Chicago will have to pull a major upset if they hope to beat the team that compiled two sweeps a year ago.

#2 Boston Celtics vs. #7 Toronto Raptors

The Celtics are an absolute eyesore. Never mind the injuries or the referees that are clearly being payed off; why else would they make such horrendous calls? That makes three games in a row now that have been blown. At least the Raptors have lost two. But still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toronto overpower Boston. Boston has had real playoff trouble, even when they won their 17th title.

#3 Atlanta Hawks vs. #6 Miami Heat

After their 39-point defeat in Charlotte Wednesday, the Heat are faltering. Meanwhile, the Hawks are only half a game away from the #2 seed. The Hawks have the edge in home/away match-ups, and the Heat are dangerously close to slipping under .500. Hawks all the way.

#4 Orlando Magic vs. #5 Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats may be five games behind the Magic right now, but nobody wants to face them at home right now, especially with their current six game winning streak, the NBA’s best. Finding themselves just behind the Hawks and having a tough time getting ahead of them, the Magic, led by Stan Van Gundy (who looks like the result of genetic experiments involving Geraldo Rivera and Ron Jeremy), could be caught by surprise if they focus too much attention on Atlanta.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With a very tough schedule that includes the Hawks, Nuggets, and Spurs, the Rockets are in peril of losing their spot. Utah is the most likely usurper, though New Orleans and Memphis will definitely make their push.
  • The Celtics may have the Clippers, but the way they’ve been playing, they’ll be below the Hawks, and very likely, the Magic too.

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