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We’re now past 20 games into the season, and things remain especially bleak in the East for any non-Miami or Indiana team. The West has a bit of a clique on top, though many more Western teams still have a pretty good chance to make a run. In both conferences, teams are clustered all around each other, leaving room for near-instantaneous movement up and down a few seeds, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 12, before the day’s games:
Portland remains just ahead in the race for #1 out West, while Golden State is trying to hold onto a spot. Golden State has been hit or miss, while the Blazers win more often than not, at home and on the road. Eight-seeds have won before, but with powerful teams like Portland to contend with, it is unlikely.
San Antonio is just half a game out of the West lead, while Phoenix has won three in a row. However, like the last series, San Antonio has been the more consistent team throughout the season. They have the veteran presence to make deep run against anyone. San Antonio should be the heavy favorites in Round 1 whoever they face.
Denver has been winning quite a bit lately, but the Thunder have been winning even more to remain half a game behind Portland. Plus, OKC is one of two teams left (along with Indiana) to remain unbeaten at home. Denver is good, but OKC has too much talent to lose that easily.
The Rockets have used the Warriors and and Magic to get back on track, while the Clippers have done the same against the pitiful Atlantic Division. Both teams have been especially good at home, which makes the Clippers happy they lead a division. Between Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers have the ability to bowl over most anyone, though Dwight Howard and James Harden aren’t too shabby themselves. In a seventh game, the home crowd could very well mean a lot.
Chicago may have been the first team to beat Indiana this season, but haven’t done very well since. The Bulls are facing questions about their future with Derrick Rose’s latest season-ending injury, and the Pacers are too good to let this opportunity to slip by.
Neither team has done especially well this season, most notably on the road. The Hawks are currently sitting at .500, which is a major achievement in the East this year. While the Wizards aren’t far behind, Atlanta has had more playoff experience recently, so Washington still has a lot of work to do.
Both sides have bested the other on the road so far, and both are under .500. Celtics Coach Brad Stevens has plenty of experience leading an underdog with Butler, which will help in the first round. Still, with Charlotte and Boston each having some bad struggles, this could easily come down to who has the ball last (or doesn’t, depending on your point of view.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards