After getting drilled in the helmet by a R.A. Dickey knuckleball, Mike Napoli follows through on his monstrous 451-foot home run at Rogers Centre. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young) Video: Napoli Beaned, Homers into Fifth Deck in 7-Run 11th Inning for Red Sox Xander Bogaerts striking out (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports) Struggling Season Continues for Xander Bogaerts Logan Mankins is heading to Tampa Bay for TE Tim Wright and a draft pick. (Getty Images) Report: Patriots Trade Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay Jon Lester (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images) Red Sox Have Decisions to Make and Money to Spend this Off-Season

If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 23

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

Just one more week left until the playoff situation is officially known, and once again, the Celtics find themselves just trying to get healthy. And the Spurs’ former stranglehold on the #1 seed is weakened, but it may be too little too late for anyone to catch them. Five of the six divisions are locked up, with the Thunder and Nuggets still fighting over the Northwest. And even at 31-45, the Bucks are still alive for a playoff spot. Charlotte and Houston are still alive outside the brackets, but time is rapidly running out for all of them. There’s clearly a lot of excitement left in the season’s final week, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, April 5, before the day’s games:

West

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #8 Memphis Grizzlies

The Spurs finally won a game after a huge losing streak. Memphis has won its last four, including a game against the Spurs. But the Spurs are getting healthy again, and they’re certain to be strong again come playoff time, so the Grizzlies still don’t have much of a chance.

#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs #7 New Orleans Hornets

With their most recent loss to Denver, the Lakers have only lost twice in the month-and-a-half since the All Star break. New Orleans is doing okay themselves, but they’re still hit or miss lately. With the roll they’re on, the Lakers will easily win in Round 1.

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs #6 Portland Trail Blazers

With three losses in a row, Dallas is in a bit of a funk. Portland beat Dallas on Sunday, but that just split the season series along home-and-home lines. Dallas hasn’t had much luck in the playoffs in recent memory, and entering this year’s tournament on shaky ground, they might just have some trouble again.

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #5 Denver Nuggets

After a 14-2 March, the Thunder have begun April 0-2. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have won six in a row. And at 31-7 at home, the Nuggets actually have the third best such record in the NBA. Oklahoma isn’t too much removed from their winning ways, but Denver has beaten the likes of the Lakers and Spurs, so they’re making themselves very difficult to ignore.

East

#1 Chicago Bulls vs #8 Indiana Pacers

The Bulls are surging ahead of the pack, 2.5 games ahead of Miami and only 1.5 behind San Antonio. At 35-43, Indiana really can’t compete.

#2 Miami Heat vs #7 New York Knicks

After some struggles, New York has managed to win three in a row. But so has Miami. Neither team has been very predictable, but at least Miami’s superstars have had more time to learn how to gel, plus, they have 15.5 games on New York.

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Philadelphia 76ers

With their big men dropping like flies, Boston is in a lot of trouble. Still, there’s not much cause to worry beyond the end of the season. Jermaine O’Neal is back, and Glen Davis is a huge help. Boston is close to cracking, but Philadelphia doesn’t have enough raw talent to deal the finishing blow. We’ll see what the officiating does, but Tommy Heinsohn probably won’t be schvitzing too much over it.

#4 Orlando Magic vs #5 Atlanta Hawks

At this point, Orlando has four games on the Hawks. In the last few weeks, Atlanta hasn’t been able to gain any ground, which opens the door for Dwight Howard to attack the paint and bowl over Atlanta.

Predicted Final Standings

West
#1 San Antonio Spurs
#2 Los Angeles Lakers
#3 Dallas Mavericks
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder
#5 Denver Nuggets
#6 Portland Trail Blazers
#7 Memphis Grizzlies
#8 New Orleans Hornets
East
#1 Chicago Bulls
#2 Miami Heat
#3 Boston Celtics
#4 Orlando Magic
#5 Atlanta Hawks
#6 Philadelphia 76ers
#7 New York Knicks
#8 Indiana Pacers

Playoff Predictions

1st Round

West
Spurs def. Hornets Lakers def. Grizzlies Trail Blazers def. Mavericks Nuggets def. Thunder
East
Bulls def. Pacers Heat def. Knicks Celtics def. 76ers Magic def. Hawks

2nd Round

West
Nuggets def. Spurs Lakers def. Trail Blazers
East
Bulls def. Magic Heat def. Celtics

3rd Round

West
Lakers def. Nuggets
East
Bulls def. Heat

NBA Finals

Lakers def. Bulls
*Home-court: Chicago

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