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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 17

Cavaliers vs Lakers: Week 17's prediction for the NBA Finals

After another week, the brackets are shifting a tad. A little seed jostling here and there, made possible by winning streaks followed by losing ones. It enabled Phoenix to overtake Oklahoma City, and allowed Milwaukee to sneak in completely under the radar. The Cavs, despite a disappointing end to their winning streak, recovered enough to remain ahead of the Lakers. They can thank the Mavericks for that. And those lovable losers New Jersey? They’re at 5-52, on pace for 7-75. Here’s hoping. With the playoffs starting to enter everyone’s minds, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, February 25 at 11:00pm (sans the late game):

West:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Portland Trailblazers

Los Angeles lost a dogfight in Dallas Wednesday, while Portland has won two to pull to a mere 10.0 games behind L.A. Still, the Lakers have this one in hand. Kobe Bryant is getting back into the swing of things, and Los Angeles does have the edge in just about any record you look at. Portland may put up a fight, but it will be a futile effort in the end.

#2 Denver Nuggets vs #7 San Antonio Spurs

As good as Denver is, most of that momentum has come at home. Then again, San Antonio is the same way. Then again, in three games between the two so far this season (two in San Antonio, one in Denver), the road team won each time. That’ll be a tough trend to continue, as these teams begin to plan out playoff strategies. With the atmospheres the way they are for playoffs, the home teams should start winning.

#3 Utah Jazz vs #6 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have lost two, after winning nine straight, after dropping three, after winning three. See what I’m getting at here? The Jazz have been much more consistent, with their only two losses in over a month coming against the Lakers and Hawks. Utah’s superb home record gives them the starting edge, so this series could come down to how bionic Kevin Durant can get when shooting the ball.

#4 Dallas Mavericks vs #5 Phoenix Suns

Last year, they were fighting for a playoff spot to begin with. This year, they’re fighting for home court advantage. Dallas has won their last five; Phoenix has won their last four. Both teams clearly want it, but Phoenix has been iffy on the road. Much like last year, Nowitzki and Kidd will overwhelm the Suns, who this year, don’t have Shaq.

East:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #8 Miami Heat

The Cavs are back on track, having destroyed the Celtics in the 4th quarter. The Heat are sitting at .500, trying to keep the Bobcats out of their hair. With Shaq for power and James for skill, and plenty of backup in between, is there any doubt that Cleveland will advance?

#2 Orlando Magic vs #7 Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee has won five straight to move to 29-28. Impressive, but they’ve been swept by Orlando in their three game season series. Much like other upstart teams, the Bucks have a poor road record, which means they’ll be hard pressed to do well. By the way, their two losses in Orlando were by 25 and 17 points.

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Chicago Bulls

So Boston’s gone from having poor 3rd quarters to having poor random quarters. The constant injuries don’t help either. Until they can put together streaks like their 2008 selves, or early 2009-2010 selves, Boston can’t win enough to win four of seven. With Derrick Rose lighting them up, the Bulls should pull off the seven-game victory, or sooner, this time around.

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs #5 Toronto Raptors

Both teams have home records that suggest easy enough victories. But the Hawks still have the edge anyway, and not just because the Hawks have already won in Toronto. With another poor road record, the Raptors will be pressured to win all three home games, just so they won’t have to pick off two in Atlanta. The Hawks will seize the opportunity and knock off the Raptors without breaking too much of a sweat en route to a rematch with Cleveland.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Despite hosting the Nets, the Celtics will drop behind the Hawks, in the likely event that Milwaukee and Chicago provide Atlanta with no real threat.
  • Provided they get past Atlanta, look for Dallas to reclaim the #3 seed out West.

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