|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|
With just about 20 games left, teams are still having a difficult time separating themselves from the rest of the pack. While the conference heavyweights are known, the vast majority of both conference brackets could still be thrown this way and that without a moment’s notice. With so much to play for, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, March 6, before the day’s games:
With three straight losses, the Mavericks are once again in a precarious spot in the highly competitive West. With Kevin Durant squarely in the MVP conversation for the Thunder, Dallas will need to be near perfect to pull off the upset.
With a four-game winning streak, the Spurs are still within striking distance for the West’s top seed. The Suns have been a .500 team over the last few weeks, and need to step up their game, especially on the road. They did snag a win over San Antonio at home on February 21, but they would still need to do it four more times, and at least once on the road at that, a rather unenviable task.
Both sides have done very well lately. Both can beat you with a variety of different players. Houston is especially good at home, and with Dwight Howard in the paint and James Harden on the perimeter, they’ll be difficult to beat without home-court. Golden State has lost the season series 1-2, despite having two home games against Houston, and haven’t been able to break away from Houston late in games this season.
The Blazers are still working hard to regain their early season form. They certainly aren’t a team to be taken lightly, though having won five straight, the Clippers are no slouches either. With all their pieces in place, the Clippers are poised to contend. They’re also 25-5 at home this season, and have the handy tiebreaker of leading a division going for them just in case.
The Pacers have lost consecutive games for the first time since December 16 and 18. One of the losses was to Charlotte, but the Pacers have shown too much ability this season to be denied that easily. That’s especially true when you consider that the Hawks have lost four in a row and 12 of 13.
Aside from the aforementioned upset, Charlotte hasn’t had a win over a playoff team in nearly a month. With games in Miami, OKC and San Antonio before their recent home win, the Bobcats didn’t show much promise against the NBA’s best for a long series.
Toronto is in a battle with Chicago for #3, but the Nets lurk just three games behind after four straight wins. Though at just 12-18 on the road, the last road win for the Nets against a playoff team was way back on January 16 (Atlanta). Toronto leads the season series 2-1 and has been able to stay in games late against Brooklyn so far.
Washington is only two games behind Chicago, and looks to be sticking around with most of the East rather woeful. Chicago has seen rumors of Carmelo Anthony opting out of his deal with the Knicks in the offseason and joining Chicago the following season, which could easily be a distraction if Chicago isn’t careful. But with Joakim Noah suddenly producing triple-doubles at will, Chicago shouldn’t be too worried.
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