Can you feel it?
We have reached the NBA's final regular season weekend! While the Warriors are tired of the regular season already, so are the fans, and I can speak for the rest of the GSOM community when I say, "Let's get these playoffs started!"
While Golden State still has some pending business to attend to, many of the playoff races have been locked up already. But there are a few key matchups over the weekend that could have an impact on the seeding for the postseason. Let's get into them!
The top of the Eastern Conference is set: barring a nuclear meltdown, the Cavs will take the #1 seed, and Toronto will take care of the #2. The bottom of the division is locked in as well: Detroit should clinch over Chicago (who have officially gone into meltdown mode, also known as "time to blow up the roster in the offseason" mode). The Pistons could overtake the Pacers for the 7th seed, and we will look more at this below.
The rest of the standings? A complete mess. 1 1/2 games separate the 3rd seed from the 6th seed. All these teams are essentially competing for home court advantage and their desired matchup. All four teams have been hot as of late - all going 7-3 in their last 10 (besides Charlotte, who ends up at the bottom of the pile). Here are some of the key matchups to watch over the coming days:
- Miami @ Orlando: The Heat play 3 of their last 4 games of the season on the road, starting with a trip over to Orlando. They face the Magic twice in three days, and with the Magic looking for draft position and the Heat looking for best seed, Miami should be showing off their playoff chops.
- Boston @ Atlanta: Winner here should move into the 3rd or 4th seed. Boston will be coming off a back-to-back (MIL at home on Friday night), but both teams will treat this as an early playoff game. Can Atlanta get the playoff magic back that they experienced last year to shut down the upstart Celtics?
- Charlotte @ Washington: Hey, those Wizards are not as bad as people think! An up-and-coming team in Washington with something to prove. Charlotte, coming in prepping for a tough back-to-back, looking to shut down John Wall and crew while controlling their place in the standings. Think MJ makes the trip?
- Charlotte @ Boston: Now the good stuff. Charlotte flies in from DC the night before. Boston with the day of rest. The Garden will be rocking.
- Miami @ Detroit: Miami will have everything to lose in the standings. Detroit might still be playing for the 7th seed over the Pacers (DET will get the Cav's backups and the Wizards at home to finish along with this game, could go 3-0). Who wants Drummond vs Whiteside? Can we have it for 7 games?
- Miami @ Boston: This is a great style matchup to end the year that could be a 4-5 or 3-6 pairing in the first round.
The Western conference is slightly more boring. The top four teams are pretty much locked in. The drama comes at the bottom, with Houston doing it's best to completely shoot itself in the foot by losing their last two games, including a home game the lowly Suns.
The main races right now are as follows:
- Portland and Memphis remained tied for the 5th and 6th spots. Memphis has two games remaining against the Warriors and has lost 7 of their last 10. Portland has won 7 of their last 10 and finishes against Min and Den. I'm just going to say that this race might not be as close as it looks on paper.
- Dallas and Utah fight for the 7th and 8th spots. Dallas remains a game up and clearly has the momentum wining their last five. Utah has four more games on the schedule, two against basement teams in the Lakers and Denver. These two teams face each other in Utah on Monday, and Utah should have Alec Burks back for the remaining games. Dallas is old and just lost Deron Williams with a sports hernia. Both teams are fighting for the right to face either the Spurs or the Warriors in the first round. This might not be as important of a race as we might think.
In short, the West will really only get good in the 2nd round, when the top four teams should be left for some super-matchups. The collision course should be Clippers v Warriors, and Thunder v Spurs, and I seriously can't wait.
- I feel like the prime conversation over the next few days will be the push for 73. In my mind, if you can't beat the record, tying it doesn't do much good. In that case, rest the starters against the Spurs in San Antonio on Sunday. Let the Spurs lose at home for the first time in the playoffs. Resting Curry and getting him back to 100% is more important than being as good as the Bulls. I feel it is either break it or let fate take it's course
- Great to see the full lineup back on the court. Why does Harrison Barnes play better when the team is at full strength? Because Harrison Barnes is a better 3rd or 4th banana than a 1st or 2nd banana. Remember that, prospective free agency teams. If you bring him to Phoenix and pay him a lot of money, he will be an overpay. If you bring him to a good team who could use an extra piece like Boston, he will be fantastic (shudder).
- I just purchased my playoff jersey and I am ready to go. Bring on the post season drama!