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The season is now more than half over, and many teams remain bunched up. The bottom of the Western bracket is also up for grabs again, making the bracket even more interesting. And the bottom of the East is still wide open thanks to the general lackluster performance of its teams. It’s an exciting time for the NBA, and not just because David Stern is retiring after 30 years as commissioner, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, January 30, before the day’s games:
The Thunder has won nine straight to claim a healthy lead in the West, most recently an impressive win in Miami. Dallas has been fairly flat lately, and have just about lost their hold on a spot. Look for OKC to move ahead in this one.
The Warriors have also been having a tough time getting wins lately, which isn’t good when they could be taking advantage of a San Antonio team that has lost three straight (though losing in Atlanta and Houston are excusable enough). Golden State can certainly get it done against San Antonio, but they’ll need to get something going themselves first.
Three straight wins have moved Phoenix up a spot, though Portland won’t make the Suns’ first round any easier. Plenty of the Blazers’ competition in recent games has been pretty good, and the Suns are still hovering around .500 on the road. It’s another series where the road team can get it done, but it will be difficult.
Both teams have been winning a good amount lately, putting the Clippers not only two games ahead of the rockets, but 19-3 at home. And LA has been doing it all without an injured Chris Paul. Houston is doing very well, but the Clippers are at least just as good. And come playoff time, having Chris Paul back and Doc Rivers’ wily game-planning will help out quite a bit.
Brooklyn has won 10 of their last 12, including a home game against Miami. Though it’s never wise to consider the Heat out, even though they’ve been so-so lately. Dwyane Wade, after missing four games due to injury, looks to be back to himself. And having had games against the Spurs and Thunder to sharpen their skills, the Heat have to still be considered a favorite.
Neither side has been relevant in some time, but that’s not stopping either. Despite being just over .500 both at home and away, Toronto has carved out a pretty good niche for themselves. Washington isn’t too far behind, but has the misfortune of not leading a division to get a top seed. The Wizards haven’t been able to string together wins for a couple weeks. That’s been less of a problem for the Raptors, who are also the only team to beat Brooklyn so far in January (and have done so twice). It’s close, but Washington will need to help themselves a little more to push ahead.
The Bulls are clawing their way up the standings, now just half a game behind the Hawks. That’s despite a minor illness for star center Joakim Noah. The Hawks are still very poor on the road (8-14), which makes defending home-court so important. But if the Bulls can win in San Antonio (like they did Wednesday), they can win in Atlanta. This should be a good series either way.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, 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, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards