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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 23

Cavaliers vs Lakers: Week 23's prediction for the NBA Finals

Just one week remains in the season, and only one spot remains to be filled. It’ll be either Toronto or Chicago, and it’s pretty hard to go against Chicago after all those injuries to Toronto. Four divisions and one conference are locked up. Dallas has a magic number of two for their division, Utah and Denver are still fighting, and the Lakers have a magic number of one for the conference, in case you were wondering. Boston’s finally back in the #3 spot after Atlanta ran into trouble. Many ties or .5 game differences exist between 11 of 16 playoff teams, so that just show’s you exactly what’s on the line late in the season. Just about anything could happen in these last three to five games, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, April 8 before the day’s games:

West:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Oklahoma City Thunder

Controversial non-call in Utah aside, that was still a lot of points to give up. At least the Lakers lost against San Antonio Sunday. Still, Los Angeles won’t lose many games with Kobe Bryant manning the floor. Oklahoma does have plenty of room to move up, currently on the bottom of a three team tiebreaker for #6. They might want to do that.

#2 Dallas Mavericks vs #7 San Antonio Spurs

Speaking of three way ties, Dallas is leading one for #2. Actually, it’s a two way tie because Phoenix isn’t a division leader. San Antonio finally has a winning road record, but Dallas has been improving in recent years, and San Antonio will have a tough time winning four out of seven. True, Dallas is 5-5 in their last 10, but that’s shouldn’t mean much.

#3 Denver Nuggets vs #6 Portland Trailblazers

Denver is the best playoff team with a losing road record. But at 32-6 at home, who’s going to argue? That should be enough to win in the first round, even though Portland is only 3.0 games back. But whoever wins, Dallas will prove to be much more of a challenge.

#4 Phoenix Suns vs #5 Utah Jazz

The Suns finally lost in Milwaukee Saturday, but came home well-rested to defeat San Antonio Wednesday. The Jazz, after “beating” Oklahoma City were throttled in Houston. After how both teams have performed this season, expect a seven game series along home court lines.

East:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #8 Toronto Raptors.

Is there really any doubt as to how this one would turn out?

#2 Orlando Magic vs #7 Charlotte Bobcats

At long last, Orlando has clinched the division title, while Charlotte nearly blew a 22 point halftime lead in New Orleans, but won by one to clinch a spot. Congratulations, Bobcats. But if that ever happens again, a team like Orlando will never let you get away with it.

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Miami Heat

Miami lost all three meet-ups this season, but by seven, six, and five points. Dwayne Wade and co. will keep it close, which won’t be a problem if the Celtics can hold onto a lead. Rivers needs to rotate the bench in and out to keep everyone fresh to assure this, and everyone needs to play more consistently, or the Heat will be advancing.

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs #5 Milwaukee Bucks

Atlanta won at home by four on February 28. Then Milwaukee won at home by three on March 22. Now, Bogut is missing from Milwaukee’s ranks. Atlanta’s 32-7 home record and home court advantage will do the trick for them, and Bogut’s injury will make it easier to win in Milwaukee, just in case.

What Might Change Next Week:

Seed West East
#1 Lakers Cavaliers
#2 Mavericks Magic
#3 Suns Celtic
#4 Nuggets Hawks
#5 Jazz Heat
#6 Thunder Bucks
#7 Spurs Bobcats
#8 Trailblazers Bulls

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