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If The NBA Playoffs Started Today: East
Posted By Joel Brigham On April 8, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
There are nine days left in the 2012-13 NBA regular season. While the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff teams have already been decided, there is still a little bit of wiggle room for those teams to slide around to different seeds. Still, the playoff picture is starting to take form, and if the postseason started today, this is how things would look:
No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks (37-39)
Games Remaining: 6 (1 Home, 5 Away)
vs. .500: 4, vs. East: 4
Well, the HEAT have been locked into the number one seed for months at this point, and while Milwaukee did finally clinch a playoff berth over the weekend, there’s just no chance for them in a seven-game series against the league’s top team.
The Bucks did win a game against Miami right after Christmas, and only 11 other teams have been able to do that this year, but to think they’d have much shot of winning more than a game or two in a playoff series is ludicrous.
With six games to go, the Bucks are 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the seventh seed, so there is a tiny chance for a change in match-up, however that isn’t likely and it appears as though the one-eight match-up is more or less locked down for late April.
Key remaining match-ups: The HEAT and Bucks actually play each other on Tuesday night, though there’s no way of knowing how many of Miami’s starters will actually be on the floor for that one. The Bucks will need to win that, plus tough games against the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder if they hope to avoid a first-round tilt with Miami.
None of the HEAT’s remaining games are particularly relevant, especially since some of their key players will probably sit out a few of those contests to mend some bumps and bruises.
No. 5 Chicago Bulls (42-33)
Games Remaining: 6 (3 Home, 3 Away)
vs. .500: 2, vs. East: 6
Chicago leads this season series 3-1, but with Deron Williams heating up and Derrick Rose looking more and more like he’ll sit out the postseason, this match-up looks about as wide open as any other first-round pairing in the Eastern Conference.
As far as seedings are concerned, there are still a few different things that could happen. Chicago, only two games back of the Nets, could still seize home court advantage in the first round if they heat up and Brooklyn cools off, or this entire pairing could be nixed if Chicago loses out and the sixth-seeded Atlanta Hawks make up the one-game gap between themselves and the Bulls. Movement is still possible for the four-five series so this match-up is anything but set in stone.
Key remaining match-ups: Both teams have pretty easy schedules from here on out. Chicago will see the New York Knicks on April 11, which should prove to be a tough game against the league’s hottest team, and they close the season against the suddenly interesting Washington Wizards, but a match-up against the HEAT on April 14 won’t be as exciting as it sounds if the big names are resting, and the Bulls’ other three opponents are done enough to stick a fork in.
Brooklyn also has to face the upstart Wizards, plus the Celtics and Indiana Pacers, but otherwise their last six games look pretty favorable as well. Based on those schedules, it seems more likely than not that the Nets will hold onto home court advantage in the first round.
No. 6 Atlanta Hawks (42-36)
Games Remaining: 4 (2 Home, 2 Away)
vs. .500: 1, vs. East: 4
Atlanta is back in the playoffs despite everybody’s low preseason expectations for them, but unfortunately for them they may face the league’s toughest defensive team in the first round of the postseason. The season series is tied 2-2, but Atlanta hasn’t beaten Indiana since 2012, as the Pacers have won the last two meetings with the Hawks.
Of course, Atlanta’s fortunes could change if the Hawks are able to take advantage of a relatively easy schedule and move up into the five seed before season’s end. Chicago could still drop back down to this spot and be forced to face their division rivals, though Indiana is likely hoping that isn’t the case. If this pairing stays as it is, it should be a relatively easy series win for the Pacers.
Key remaining match-ups: Atlanta has only four games left to make up ground on Chicago, and match-ups against the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia Sixers should be relatively favorable for them. Games against the Bucks and Knicks will be considerably more challenging, but there is still a chance for them to win enough games to move up a seed.
Indiana, meanwhile, has Brooklyn, New York, and Boston, none of which will be easy wins. Maybe Atlanta will get lucky and those three challenging games will wear out the Pacers a bit just ahead of the postseason.
No. 7 Boston Celtics (40-37)
Games Remaining: 5 (2 Home, 3 Away)
vs. .500: 3, vs. East: 5
For a team like the Celtics, who has only won four games since St. Patrick’s Day, it probably isn’t ideal to face off against the team with more momentum than any other organization in the league. Then again, seven seeds aren’t typically expected to be competitive when playing two seeds, so it won’t come as any surprise if the dominant Knicks continue their roll in this series and absolutely demolish the aging Celtics.
At the same time, Boston has a reputation for never saying never, and there’s certainly a good deal of potential for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to lay it all out there in what could very well be their last hurrah together.
Without Rajon Rondo, though, confidence isn’t exactly soaring that Boston will do much against the Knicks, should this particular first-round pairing stick. And absolutely nobody wants to play the streaking Knicks right now.
Key remaining match-ups: While a 2.5-game lead over the Pacers should be enough to hold onto the two seed with so few games remaining, the Knicks and Pacers do play each other—possibly as an Eastern Conference Semifinals preview—before the end of the season, and it should be good one. One of those two teams will likely face Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, so this should be one of the more meaningful games left on the league’s regular season schedule.
Boston has Indiana, too, as well as Miami and Brooklyn, but games against the Raptors and Orlando Magic should help them stave off Milwaukee for the East’s seven-seed.
There’s plenty to keep your eye on as the season winds down, but the fact that it is winding down means the postseason is just around the corner. These are the pairings for now, but it could all change in just a matter of days. That’s the beauty of playing all 82 regular season games; changes can happen right to the very last day.
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