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If the Playoffs Started Today – NBA Week 17

Spurs vs Heat: Week 17's prediction for the NBA Finals

Now a week into March, the brackets are pretty set. The East is definitely set, with 7.5 games separating #8 from #9. The Lakers are still making a case in the West, but 2.5 games back may be too much when you have a poor road record in a powerful conference. Right now, Miami is still a juggernaut that can’t be stopped, while New York is also making their move to reclaim #2. None of the lower Western seeds will be happy, with the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers providing such stiff competition. There are a lot of very strong teams that are making themselves contenders, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 6, before the day’s games:

West

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #8 Utah Jazz

Utah is struggling, and a home throttling of lowly Charlotte won’t solve anything. The Spurs are just too dominant, and are tied for the league-low with three home losses. Utah is in for a rough time in this one.

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #7 Houston Rockets

The Rockets are a little better than the Jazz at the moment, while the Thunder are doing a little worse than the Spurs, but the result won’t be any different. The Thunder have plenty of younger talent that can exert more energy, and the Rockets are barely treading water at #7.

#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs #6 Golden State Warriors

Golden State is continuing to struggle, now 5.5 games out of #5 and just 1.0 ahead of #7. Meanwhile, the last time Los Angeles suffered an inexcusable loss was February 4 in Washington. Since then, only Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City have bested them.

#4 Memphis Grizzlies vs #5 Denver Nuggets

It took a game in Miami to snap Memphis‘ eight-game winning streak, but Denver is working on six straight wins of their own. Before that winning streak, Memphis had been so-so for awhile, but if they can keep up the momentum, this could easily be a series where the home team wins every game. Otherwise, Denver has a great shot at winning if Memphis let’s up in the least.

East

#1 Miami Heat vs #8 Milwaukee Bucks

It’s now a franchise record 15 straight wins for Miami. There’s no chance for Milwaukee here.

#2 Indiana Pacers vs #7 Boston Celtics

Boston has won their last three, and they’re only 1.5 games behind #4, but they’re still tinkering around with different formulas after all their injuries. Boston likely won’t have enough left to extend their season past a team like Indiana that’s been up there for some time now, especially with their overall road issues.

#3 New York Knicks vs #6 Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has lost three straight, which marks another streak in their inconsistent season. New York may be a .500 team, but at least they’ve been that way for months, and are still half a game behind Indiana. Atlanta simply can’t keep any sort of momentum going to stay in a series with a regular team.

#4 Chicago Bulls vs #5 Brooklyn Nets

Neither team is doing particularly well right now; in fact, both are 34-26. Chicago is dealing with injuries, while Brooklyn is getting used to being in a playoff position late in the season. The good news for the Bulls is that the biggest obstacle for former league MVP Derrick Rose to return at this point seems to be mental, so if he clears that hurdle, it’ll put the Bulls over the edge. Otherwise, it’s a wash, so give the home-team a slight edge in what’s otherwise a de facto coin flip to advance.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With a home game against Utah breaking up trips to San Antonio and L.A. (Lakers), look for Chicago to slide down the rankings.

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