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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 16

Cavaliers vs Lakers: Week 16's prediction for the NBA Finals

There was an All-Star break in the middle of last week, but there’s still plenty going on. The Lakers and Cavs are the clear favorites to meet in the Finals, while the Nets, despite a win in Charlotte Tuesday, are still on track to set the NBA’s all-time worst record at 8-74. And it seems the Celtics can’t do anything right lately; they tried their best to lose to the Kings Tuesday, but blew it and won by three; the rest of the three games on the West Coast road trip should be embarrassments by that standard.

The Thunder continue to express, making it seven in a row and 26 in a row for Kevin Durant with at least 25 points. Chasing Michael Jordan’s two 40-game streaks, Durant and the Thunder are emerging as a dark horse candidate in the West. With about 30 games with which teams will make their final pushes, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, February 17 at 11:45pm (sans the late games):

West:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Portland Trailblazers

The Lakers have made it four in a row without their star player, while the Blazers are trying to overtake Phoenix and avoid being fed to the Lakers in the 1st round. Kobe Bryant was supposed to be back after the all-star break, but another missed game has fueled speculation about how bad the injury really is. L.A. is the clear favorite even without him, but the Blazers could attack his substitute and throw all that edge out the window if they don’t let up.

#2 Denver Nuggets vs #7 Phoenix Suns

Both teams are pretty good at home and sub-par on the road, and pretty good in the conference. Basically, these two teams are very alike, with only 4.0 games separating them. With few differences between them, we can only surmise that the Nuggets will win based solely on home court advantage.

#3 Utah Jazz vs #6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Utah is another one of those home teams, while Oklahoma sacrificed some of that to be better on the road. That could help them, especially with Durant scoring without end. If there is to be an upset (aside from the Celtics series), this will be the one to do it.

#4 Dallas Mavericks vs #5 San Antonio Spurs

With the Rockets taking a year off, the other two Southwest teams are duking it out for the division, with any one of the two being able to win. Dallas is only up by 1.0 games, but has a decidedly better road record than their rivals. When they have the home court advantage as well, that has to be considered the deciding factor.

East:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #8 Charlotte Bobcats

Cleveland has won their last 13. Charlotte lost to the Nets. Enough said.

#2 Orlando Magic vs #7 Miami Heat

Miami is on a mini run, having won their last four. But, Orlando 9.0 games ahead, and Stan Van Gundy had to have gotten some fun ideas to use when coaching the East to a victory in the All Star Game. Orlando has the better home record, and has the skills to win in Miami as well. The games may be close, but Orlando is better equipped to deal with such situations.

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Chicago Bulls

The Celtics just barely beat the Kings, and had a similar game earlier in the season against the Nets. Chicago refuses to fade away from the playoff race, and has even improved their position in the seeding. With Derrick Rose sparking the offense, the Celtics’ very poor defense as of late will not be able to keep up. And that’s without Tommy Heinsohn having a stroke whenever Brad Miller does anything.

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs #5 Toronto Raptors

Toronto is 8-2 in their last 10, making a good push for contention, but a 9-17 road record will not get them anywhere, especially without any home court advantage in sight. Atlanta is only .500 on the road themselves, but the difference is they have the talent to tide them over on the road to supplement their home record.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • If San Antonio can get by Oklahoma City, then Dallas’ upcoming Magic and Lakers games could mean a new division leader.
  • Utah could also take over their division from Denver, if only because of the denser schedule.
  • Boston’s depressing road trip coupled with Atlanta’s dense schedule (the only challenging feature of which is in Utah, maybe in Phoenix too) virtually guarantees some room for the new #3 Atlanta.

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