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What fun we’re having. The Celtics are starting to build a mini lead in the conference. Three sub-.500 teams are in the playoffs, giving the best teams a virtual bye. The Lakers are doing just as well as everyone thought, but they’re not running amok with the West. Yao-less Houston is still pushing for a spot. Phoenix and Orlando both slipped after great starts. Plenty of teams are still in the hunt, and no lead is safe, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday December 17 at 11:45pm (sans the late game):
The Lakers are 2/3 to start their five game road trip, while the Rockets lost in Denver Wednesday. The Lakers have been excellent at home so far, and have started out great on the road. If the Rockets want to push the Lakers last year, they would do well to take advantage of the fact that all four Lakers losses have been within the Western conference.
Denver has won three straight, chasing the Lakers for the top spot, while the Spurs have just recently pushed their way back into the brackets. Denver is 12-1 at home while San Antonio is 3-6 on the road, so guess who will win this one. Denver even won in San Antonio on December 5, making it even harder on the Spurs.
Dallas has won five straight to tie the Nuggets and take a 4.5 game lead over the Spurs in the division. Portland hosted Phoenix late, and was locked in a close battle in the 2nd. Dallas has been a balanced away/road team, while Portland has favored home games. It should be close enough in Portland to let Dallas take the series in five or six games.
Phoenix is the only remaining team that’s unbeaten at home, while the Jazz’ road record is a paltry 4-6, and the Jazz already have a home AND an away loss to the Timberwolves, the worst of the West. At that rate, Phoenix won’t need a good road record to put away the Jazz.
The Celtics are riding a muscular 11-game winning streak and reminding us of their most recent championship season. The Bobcats are four wins away from even reaching .500, and are just as terrible on the road (1-11) as Boston is good (12-1). Boston takes the series all the way.
The Hawks five game winning streak has helped propel them into the second spot in the East, while the Pistons have lost two straight. A comparable road/away match-up exists in Detroit, but the advantage, predictably, swings heavily in Atlanta’s favor down in Georgia. Expect the Hawks to continue to win and get better and better.
Despite being at #6, the Bucks are sub-.500 at 11-12. The Cavs have won four straight and are 6.5 games ahead of the Bucks in the division despite an iffy start. The Cavs won in Milwaukee on Sunday December 6, and the two face off this Friday in Cleveland. That, and the traditional home/away match-ups seal Milwaukee’s fate.
Orlando took a disappointing 18 point road loss Thursday to drop to the fourth seed. Their opponents? The Heat. With the victory, the Heat have beaten Orlando at home and on the road in their first two meetings of the season. On paper, the Magic still have the advantage, but these teams’ meetings so far suggest otherwise. A seven game series seems likely.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Playoffs, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz