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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 21

Cavaliers vs Lakers: Week 21's prediction for the NBA Finals

Three weeks remain in the schedule, and two more teams have punched their post-season tickets. There’s still a lot of close seeding to be hammered out. Remember last year when the Rockets could have ended anywhere from second to fifth on the season’s last day? Multiple teams could very well pull off something similar this year. After somehow looking like a basketball team against the Kings, New Jersey is on pace to tie the worst NBA record ever (9-73). Unless Chicago can make a huge push, the brackets are pretty safe as far as the sweet sixteen go. So with who faces who still up in the air, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, March 25 at 12:20am:

West:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Portland Trailblazers

The hot Lakers are firmly in command of the Western Conference, while Portland, 8-2 in their last 10 in their own right, still can’t catch up to the Spurs. They’re close, though; they’re even withing decent striking range of the Thunder. But against a 32-5 home team in L.A.? It’s a tall task indeed.

#2 Dallas Mavericks vs #7 San Antonio Spurs

Dallas has weaseled their way back into the second spot, while San Antonio is still barely avoiding a death sentence of facing the Lakers right away. Both teams are great at home, but Dallas has been able to duplicate that success on the road. Dallas hasn’t been this good in some time, and they know it. After a rough few years in the playoffs, they’re poised for a much deeper run this time around, and San Antonio isn’t poised to stop them.

#3 Denver Nuggets vs #6 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Nuggets have lost three in a row; not exactly the way they wanted to start their road trip. Oklahoma won Wednesday against Houston, scoring 74 points in the 1st half and snapping Houston’s 13-game winning streak in the series, a Houston-best against any team. Denver/Oklahoma has been a home dominated series so far, which is bad news for Oklahoma. But if Oklahoma can come out on fire like against Houston, they can get a lead. If they can get it, they need to hold it. If they can hold it, they’ll pick off a game in Denver. If they can pick off a game in Denver, the series could very well be theirs.

#4 Utah Jazz vs #5 Phoenix Suns

Two stellar home records, two so-so road records. Both teams have been winning a lot lately. Utah is now even tied for the division lead with Denver. Phoenix is sandwiched in between the Jazz and the Thunder. With teams like this, home court advantage could mean everything, and not only do the Jazz have it, they’ve also won in Phoenix on March 4.

East:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #8 Toronto Raptors

Once in the middle of the East’s brackets, the Raptors have slid back to .500. Meanwhile, the Cavs are like the Energizer Bunny: they keep going and going and going. If Toronto wants to upset Cleveland… who are we kidding? Like that’ll ever happen.

#2 Orlando Magic vs #7 Miami Heat

These two have split the season series, but the Magic have won the two most recent meetings. Orlando is the NBA’s third 50-game winner of the season, while Miami hasn’t even reached 40, and is struggling to make it out of the playoff basement. Orlando has a better record in pretty much every category, and Stan Van Gundy being the masterful genius behind their game plans, the Magic aren’t looking to be upset any time soon.

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Charlotte Bobcats

This is not the series that the Bobcats want at all; they can’t seem to figure out the Celtics at all. And with injuries subsiding and chemistry developing, Boston is starting to look better as a team lately. Not perfect, but better. Charlotte’s 26-8 home record could make for an interesting pick-off, but four out of seven is just not in the cards for Charlotte.

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs #5 Milwaukee Bucks

Atlanta just managed to hold off Orlando Wednesday while Milwaukee was blown away at home by Philadelphia. Still, the home team has won each of the two games so far (not surprisingly), but Atlanta won by four and Milwaukee by three. Both teams’ iffyness on the road will probably make this a lengthy series, but with a 6.5 game lead, Atlanta is still the favorite.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Dallas visits Denver Monday, which has more of a chance of moving Utah up a notch than anything.
  • If Boston has a bit of trouble against Oklahoma City (the 3rd quarter might do it) and Atlanta figures out how to beat the Lakers, the Hawks still have a chance to move into #3.

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