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The NBA season is reaching its climax, yet only two teams have clinched spots. For that matter, no teams have been mathematically eliminated, at least for the moment. The West is as strong as it’s been in recent memory, including three teams not in the brackets that would be if they were suddenly transplanted to the East. That means no easy rides for anyone in the West, leaving an interesting Finals for what will likely be either Indiana or Miami. That doesn’t mean either should take anyone for granted, nor should any other team do the same with plenty to be decided, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, March 13, before the day’s games:
The Mavericks are still trying to gain ground in a very impressive conference. While they have a bit of room for a playoff spot, their rivals San Antonio, the perennial definition of consistency, have won eight straight and 11 of 12. Considering how rare it is for San Antonio to make an early exit, Dallas will need to be on top of their game by quite a bit.
Memphis has won four in a row to put themselves in a better position, which goes well with Oklahoma City‘s struggles ever since getting Russell Westbrook back. Memphis has only won once in the season series, but if OKC can’t get some meaningful momentum going, Memphis has a good shot; we’ve seen before what they can do in the early rounds.
Golden State just lost a five-game winning streak when visiting the Clippers on Wednesday. Both sides split the season series along home-court lines, and the Clippers are already one of the best home-court teams in the league. And with nine straight wins, LA is on a fast track to contend for a title.
Portland has lost four games in a row, and if they’re not careful could easily slip further down in the seeding. Houston is as dangerous as ever and in the last week and a half has beaten Miami, Indiana and Portland. In a long series, it will likely take more than Portland can muster at this point.
Miami is looking for a good opportunity to make their move against Indiana, but has yet to make a lasting one. The Bobcats have won four out of five and have had their moments this season, but has lost all four games to Miami this season (five if you count the preseason). Like Indiana, Miami hasn’t had a perfect few weeks, but is still lethal.
Washington has put together a decent overall performance, but losses to Miami and Charlotte have slowed them a bit. And it took 134 points in a game to finally salvage a game of the season series from Toronto (at the end of February). Washington certainly could get it done, but Toronto is in a pretty good position to prepare their roster as they need to.
The Bulls are still at #4, but have been hit-or-miss in March after a great February. The Nets have won seven of eight, including a win over Chicago. The Nets are getting hot at a good time, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett certainly know how to make a deep run, and are familiar with Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau from when they were all in Boston together. Chicago can’t be counted out, but Brooklyn won’t make things easy.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards