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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 20

Cavaliers vs Lakers: Week 20's prediction for the NBA Finals

Another week gone, about 15 games to go, the Magic have become the latest team to clinch a playoff berth, Cleveland has become the first division winner, and the Nets are on pace to win just under 8.5 games. And the brackets are pretty much set by now. Chicago could pick up the 2.5 games on Toronto IF they can turn around their horrendous nine-game losing streak, and Houston, despite their four-game win streak, could find it difficult to pick up 4.5 games on Portland. So with essentially all that remains being to decide the seeds and who won’t face the Cavs and Lakers until round three, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, March 18 at 1:03am:

West:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Portland Trailblazers

The Lakers are back, having won their last four to win 50 games overall. Portland did the same, though, to maintain their lead over Houston and pull within half a game of San Antonio. Portland might want to give real thought to playing hard and picking up that game on San Antonio, because they’ve had mixed results against the Lakers, and won’t want to see them that often in a row.

#2 Denver Nuggets vs #7 San Antonio Spurs

Two great home records and two .500 road records. The thing is, the road team has won all three meetings so far, two in San Antonio. That will complicate things a little, but how long can that go on? With two home records that good, the Spurs won’t be winning in seven. They might push it to six at the most, but the Nuggets are simply to big to fail.

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs #6 Phoenix Suns

Even Dallas’ dual home/road dominance could be bothersome, as the team’s first meeting (in Dallas) was won by Dallas by a single point. All three games so far have been decided by one, six, and ten points. But with Nowitzki, Kidd, and the capabilities of their recent winning streak, it still shouldn’t be much of a problem for Dallas to be the dominant power.

#4 Utah Jazz vs #5 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Jazz have only lost eight times at home this season, but one of those eight teams was Oklahoma. In fact, Oklahoma is 3-0 this year against Utah. Neither team has had many weak points this season, but Kevin Durant is quickly becoming an elite player, so unless Karl Malone or John Stockton come back for no reason, Oklahoma’s looking good.

East:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #8 Toronto Raptors

Cleveland really is the team to beat; they have the NBA’s best home AND road records. They did lose in Toronto to start the season 0-2, though. And they did lose to the Bobcats not one, not two, but three times. But Cleveland’s blemishes have been sporadic, with their largest losing streak of the season set at three games, occurring once. And with just the two two-game losing streaks, Cleveland shouldn’t do badly four out of seven. They haven’t had such a seven game combination yet this year.

#2 Orlando Magic vs #7 Miami Heat

Miami is a tougher team than their record lets on, or maybe that’s just Dwayne Wade. They have beaten Orlando twice, but Orlando is one of four teams right now to go 9-1 in their last 10 (6-4 for the Heat). Miami will make things interesting for sure, but Orlando will win in a deep series. Kind of like Orlando vs Philadelphia last year.

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Charlotte Bobcats

This is where the Celtics want to be in the first round. They’re in line to face a team that they beat every time this season, by an average of 25 points. They looked good against the Knicks, despite another 4th quarter that could’ve gone better. Charlotte’s 10-24 road record especially leaves much to be desired. Boston will prevail, but would do well not to get cocky before heading to Orlando.

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs #5 Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee has had two six-game winning streaks interrupted in a row: one by Atlanta and one Wednesday night / Thursday morning by the Clippers. Atlanta blew a decent lead in Toronto Wednesday to lose by one in the closing seconds. Atlanta won at home by four against Milwaukee to end February, and the two meet twice in Milwaukee before season’s end. In one way, it’s a tough one to call. But in another way, Atlanta wins.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Dallas, Utah, and Denver? Boston is definitely dropping back to #4.
  • San Antonio’s best bet to avoid being #8? Winning in Oklahoma City. Not easy.

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