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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 22

Spurs vs Bulls: Week 22's prediction for the NBA Finals

Just two more weeks to go and we’ll know who makes it into the playoffs. Nine of 16 spots are punched so far, including three of the six divisions. Some of the top teams are having pretty big struggles, and others are taking advantage. Memphis is building a little bit of space out west, while Charlotte is closing the gap on Indiana in the East. With 10 games left to play, Cleveland is two games behind Minnesota for worst team in the league. Talk about first to worst. Some teams may be in comfortable positions, but others still have plenty to fight for, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, March 29, before the day’s games:

West

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #8 Memphis Grizzlies

The Spurs are on a four-game losing streak, which is only their second losing streak of the season (the first being just two games). The Grizzlies, most recently, beat San Antonio. However, they haven’t been able to win in San Antonio this season. If Duncan and Ginobli return healthy, the Spurs should still be able to dispatch with Memphis.

#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs #7 New Orleans Hornets

The Lakers have won seven in a row, and rest just 3.5 games behind San Antonio. New Orleans is still hanging in there at #7, but has room for movement in either direction. They’re still sub-.500 on the road, too. The Hornets looked so good in November, but not so in April.

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs #6 Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers won in San Antonio Monday; that’s worth something. But the Mavericks have won four in a row, and are always a tough out. Dallas is lethal away or at home, and Portland is much more potent at home. Overall, with Kidd and Nowitzki leading the charge, the Mavericks have the edge.

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #5 Denver Nuggets

The Thunder have won three in a row, nine of ten, and 12 of 14. Denver is just as difficult to defeat lately, and it turns out trading ‘Melo was actually a huge help. This’ll be a tactical slugfest, and could potentially come down to home-court advantage; Denver is still sub-.500 on the road overall anyway.

East

#1 Chicago Bulls vs #8 Indiana Pacers

The last time the Bulls lost consecutive games was in the first week of February. Sixers aside, they’re a very talented team with leading candidates for MVP and Coach of the Year. At 33-42, Indiana just can do it in a best-of-seven series.

#2 Boston Celtics vs #7 New York Knicks

Before Monday, the Knicks had been working on a six-game losing streak, and had lost nine of ten. Not that Boston is impressive right now; they’re not. Still, the Knicks’ personalities can’t gel together properly without an extensive training camp, and past experience has shown Doc Rivers to rest his best guys more than usual down the stretch; that usually works pretty well.

#3 Miami Heat vs #6 Philadelphia 76ers

You can’t predict Miami, but they’re on a five-game winning streak at the moment. Even in that, they haven’t looked their best. What is their best, anyway? Philadelphia hasn’t been looking good lately, and they did get swept in the season series 3-0, so Miami should live to fight at least another round.

#4 Orlando Magic vs #5 Atlanta Hawks

Orlando‘s lead over Atlanta is now a whole five games, with eight to play. Orlando has also been playing a little better lately, and has the big man and shooting talent they need to overcome Atlanta, which shouldn’t be a terrible problem.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Look for Boston to drop yet another spot to #3.
  • If Dallas can win in the Staples Center against the Lakers, they have a good chance to retake #2.

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