Greetings! The NBA playoffs are on the horizon as each team has between 3-5 games remaining in their season and as we approach the finish line it’s time to look ahead towards the playoffs. First, let’s project the seed in each conference.
- Oklahoma City
- San Antonio
- LA Clippers (Division Winner)
- Golden State
- LA Lakers
There are a few changes from the current standings here. The Spurs currently hold the #1 seed but with Manu out of the lineup and Oklahoma City looming, I think the Spurs give up the top spot to the Thunder. On the bottom half, Houston currently trails the Warriors by a game but they have been significantly better for about 3 months now and I see them zooming past GSW and into the 6-spot. The 8th seed is the biggest battle to watch between LA and Utah but after a huge Laker win and Jazz loss Tuesday, I’ll give the edge to Kobe.
- New York
Nothing changes here! The closest battle is between Atlanta and Chicago for the 5th spot, but with Chicago holding a 1/2 game lead and the tiebreaker, they’re in a bit better shape. Everything else is comfortably set.
With that set, let’s take a (very) quick look at projecting the path to the NBA Finals.
- Oklahoma City over Los Angeles in 5 - The Thunder are head-and-shoulders better than the current Lakers team, and while Kobe’s offense has been crazy this season, he isn’t guarding a soul. It is popular to think that LA could “put it together” in the playoffs, but not against a gauntlet like OKC.
- San Antonio over Golden State in 6 – Without Manu, San Antonio seems vulnerable, but with their coaching advantage and the presence of Duncan/Parker, they’d still beat Golden State.
- Houston over Denver in 6 – Here’s my one-and-only bold upset pick. I think Houston would beat Denver in a series. They have the best player in the series in Harden, they can play at Denver’s tempo (perhaps better than Denver can), and they can score at will.
- LA Clippers over Memphis in 7 – This is probably the best matchup in the West and a re-match of last year’s crazy back-and-forth series. Give me Chris Paul & C0.
- Miami over Milwaukee in 4 - I yawned out loud when I thought about this series.
- New York over Boston in 7 – I really wanted to take Boston although I couldn’t pull the trigger without home-court. New York will put up a stinker or two if these two teams meet but Boston can’t score enough to win 4 games.
- Indiana over Atlanta in 7 – Call me a homer for taking this to 7 games but the Hawks would hold home-court against Indy. The Pacers are better overall (defensively being the key), however, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be highly competitive throughout.
- Chicago over Brooklyn in 6 – Tom Thibodeau is very, very good at his job. If Chicago beats Brooklyn in this series (like I predict), he should be awarded a medal for winning a playoff round with Nate Robinson as his best guard.
- Oklahoma City over LA Clippers in 5 - This is a bad match-up for the Clips. Paul could be neutralized (or even beaten) by Westbrook and they have no answer for Durant while being unable to punish OKC inside or with shooters. I don’t like it.
- San Antonio over Houston in 7 – This would be a 5-game series if Manu was healthy but because we don’t know how he’ll be by then, I’ll take it to 7. Still can’t pick against Pop and Duncan here.
- Miami over Chicago in 5 – Chicago can steal a game because they’ll muck it up but don’t you think LBJ and Wade will be angry about the streak-ending loss?
- Indiana over New York in 6 - Indy’s defense is too good to let New York go crazy for 4 full games. That’s the difference. Throw in Paul George against Carmelo and I love Indiana.
- Oklahoma City over San Antonio in 7 - This pains me. If I knew that San Antonio was full-strength, I would pick the Spurs and not blink. But since we don’t know that, I can’t pull the trigger.
- Miami over Indiana in 5 - Just because Indy is the “best” match-up in the East for Miami doesn’t mean they’ll have a chance. Enjoy your off-season.
- Miami over Oklahoma City in 7 – If James Harden was on the Thunder this is a legit toss-up. However, with the slight downgrade and Miami’s unbelievably high-level play, it would be semi-crazy to pick against them at this stage. LeBron and Durant battle for the second time, and while I love KD unconditionally, LeBron is the best player on Earth. Great series.
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