|And Then There Were 16: Celtics to Waive Four Players, Bynum Next?||Chandler Jones Out 1 Month With Hip Injury; Patriots Sign Alan Branch||2014 MLB Playoffs Expert Picks: World Series||Patriots Trade for Titans LB Akeem Ayers|
The All-Star game is just days away, yet it’s rather difficult for any team to find a niche, especially in the middle of the conferences. Indiana and OKC are even fighting with each other over home-court advantage. Teams are still pushing each other this way and that with every passing day. It’s a tough time to be a bubble team, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, February 14, before the day’s games:
In the tight race between the bottoms teams in the West bracket, .500 play has the Warriors down to #8. They may be decent on the road, but it won’t be good enough to power past a loaded Thunder team that has leapfrogged Indiana for best overall record.
Phoenix carried a five-game winning streak into February, but has gone one-for-four since, with two home losses. The Spurs have been trying to figure themselves out too, but still have a two-game lead for the second seed. San Antonio is winning the season series, and have been known to let their regular season record slide in order to rest their regulars. Phoenix could still put a run together, but the wily Spurs retain the advantage.
Dallas has done pretty well to squeak their way up to #6, but with seven straight wins, the Rockets are all the way up to #3. Both sides do much better at home, though each team has won on the road in a split of the season series. If teams don’t mind foul trouble, they sometimes play Whack-a-Howard against Houston, forcing Dwight Howard to beat them at the free-throw line. It could be worth a gamble in close games, but Dallas will want everyone surrounding Dirk Nowitzki to help stop Houston’s onslaught.
Portland has lost twice in a row, but maintains home-court based on percentage points. Being in the top three of the West for most of the season, Portland is starting to slide, right when the Clippers have won three straight. Of course, when the season is over, LA would get the tiebreaker for leading a division. And with their momentum and talent pool, they could make things interesting for Portland.
These two teams are back in the postseason picture after some years away, and with a rebuilding Celtics leaving a weak division in their wake, Toronto is taking advantage. Washington has lost two straight, which in a weak conference could always push you down a few spots. Toronto is in pretty good position as #3, and has shown enough promise to do well against a lesser East team.
Chicago hasn’t been the best team as of late, but weak competition in the conference has them up to #4. The Hawks, meanwhile, have lost five straight to fall below .500. That could be a death sentence for Atlanta, especially with a 9-17 road record.
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