The Playoffs are right around the corner, and some movement could happen before the playoffs start. As for teams that are looking to get into the playoffs Memphis is 5 games back of Portland with 15 games remaining on their regular season schedule. The Chicago Bulls are 1 game back of Toronto and they could possibly steal the #8 seed in the East before all said and done.
If the playoffs started today these are the most likely matchup we would be looking at some very good matchups in the East and West and some similar matchups from last year’s playoffs. I’ll break down the first round of the upcoming playoffs as well as throw in some predictions.
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture:
# 1 Cleveland #8 Toronto
Cleveland has control of the #1 seed in the East by 5.5 games and would be facing up against the Toronto Raptors in the first round. There is no reason to worry about the first round if you’re a Cavs fan, Toronto is well under .500 on the road and the Cavs could sweep the Raptors and get extra rest before round two.
Prediction: Cavs win series 4-0
#2 Orlando #7 Miami
The Magic and Heat is a likely first round matchup. Dwayne Wade and his young Heat have played hard all year and it’s paid off enough to get them into the bottom list of the playoffs. After the Magic went to work in the off season, this is a good first round test for them. We all want to see how Vince Carter will respond playing for a top team, and surely we’ll find out if Orlando is still a contender. Miami will keep the series close, but eventually they’ll fall short and head home.
Prediction: Magic win series 4-2
#3 Atlanta #6 Charlotte
The Bobcats are in the playoffs and they’ve been a surprise out of the East all year. Two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference that aren’t considered contenders will meet up in the first round. The Hawks have so many different weapons and it’s only a question of playing with playoff intensity. Atlanta has some playoff experience while Charlotte has none at all. Don’t expect the Hawks to sweep the Bobcats because it’s not going to happen. This is going to be the most competitive first round playoff series in the East and could go to seven games. And I’m telling you in advance; don’t sleep on the Charlotte Bobcats.
Prediction: Hawks win series 4-3
#4 Boston #5 Milwaukee
The Celtics are old; I think you knew that right? Milwaukee is a young basketball team with a completely different look from last year. Boston has been unable to beat the power houses of the East all year and I don’t see them moving past the first round this year. The fatigue factor for the big 3 kicked in at the all-star break. The Celtics have no energy off the bench and too many veterans with the starting five. That can be a bad thing come playoff time. It sounds good to have plenty of playoff experience but if you can’t use the experience on the court because of injuries and lack of energy you’re going home. This may be the biggest surprise of the first round in either conference; Boston is making an early round exit.
Prediction: Bucks win series 4-2
Western Conference Playoff Picture:
#1 Los Angeles #8 Portland
The Blazers survived most of this season with several injuries. That hurt them in the regular season and will also hurt them in the playoffs. Hanging on to the #8 seed in the Wild West is hard to do with injuries but they will be facing up against the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers. This isn’t going to be much of a series but Portland should be happy with the type of they had season including all the obstacles in their way.
Prediction: Lakers win series 4-1
#2 Denver #7 Phoenix (Possible Denver/San Antonio Matchup)
Some already believe Denver is strong enough to make it to the finals. This matchup will have high rating, I can assure you. Phoenix cooled off since their hot start at the beginning of the season and Denver has controlled the West on the other side of the all-star break. The Nuggets sit 3 games behind the #1 seed Lakers. Overall Denver would matchup better with Phoenix with their size and ability to stretch the floor. The Nuggets can run with Phoenix on occasion but will for the most part control the tempo.
Prediction: Nuggets win series 4-2
#3 Dallas #6 San Antonio (Possible Dallas/Phoenix matchup)
A classic battle is going to go down in Texas again. This year Dallas added more pieces to the puzzle and made a statement one of the West’s top teams. San Antonio isn’t much to talk about in the West anymore and Dallas will prove that in this series. With the Spurs turning away from their old dominant look I would expect San Antonio to win at least one game max and avoid the sweep.
Prediction: Mavs win series 4-1
#4 Utah #5 Oklahoma City
The Oklahoma City Thunder deserve to go to the playoff, and Kevin Durant deserves to the playoffs. The Thunder have their work cut out for them against Utah. I like this matchup a lot with Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook going at it and Carlos Boozer and Kevin Durant going at it down low. The Thunder lead the season series 3-0 and there’s no question in my mind they can’t beat the Jazz in the playoffs.
Prediction: Thunder win series 4-3