I understand there are a little less than two weeks remaining in the 2012 NBA season but that does not mean we can’t take a look at some solid postseason matchups. Most teams have roughly six games remaining until the end of the regular season. For most playoff teams these games will only serve as a way to move up in the standings while other squads are still trying to make the postseason. If the season ended today these would be the top five matchups to watch for.
#5 Boston Celtics (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)
The Boston Celtics have been on a tear lately winning their last 11 out of 14 games. They are getting hot at exactly the right time as the regular season is winding down. Remember, it is not who has the best record going into the playoffs it is what team has the most momentum. They would face an Atlanta Hawks team that has won their last four out of six games. Atlanta has struggled at times as the absence of center Al Horford for a majority of the season has really hurt them. The Hawks and Celtics met most recently on April 11 when Boston won 88-86 in overtime.
#4 Indiana Pacers (3) vs. Orlando Magic (6)
The Indiana Pacers have got to be the biggest surprise during this shortened NBA season. Nobody outside the state of Indiana thought the Pacers could be a third seed heading into the playoffs. How are they so good? They have size, a star small forward named Danny Granger and big guys that can out-rebound their opponents. The Orlando Magic would matchup against the Pacers fairly well, assuming Dwight Howard will be able to play. Orlando defeated Indiana three out of the four times these two teams met this season. This will be a good defensive matchup with two teams that do not surrender points.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5)
The Los Angeles Clippers are winners of their last 11 out of 13 games and have the build to go deep into the playoffs. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have put on quite the show so far this season but none of it will mean anything unless they can defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. Although the Clippers have beaten the Grizzlies twice this season, they lost their latest matchup by nine points on April 9. Memphis is another surprise team, even though they made a name for themselves last season by taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the Western Conference semi-finals. The Grizzlies play hard defensively, which will serve them well in the postseason.
#2 Chicago Bulls (1) vs. New York Knicks (8)
The No. 1 seeded Chicago Bulls are the heavy favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this season. The Bulls have won their last three games with two of them being played in overtime. Chicago has gone to overtime in three of their last four games which is not good considering this time of year is when teams want to conserve energy not play extra minutes. Derrick Rose has missed 23 games this season due to injuries with the Bulls going 17-6 in those games. The New York Knicks have been streaky this season and probably would not be in the position they are in if it was not for Jeremy Lin going “Lintastic” in 26 games earlier this year. Also, Carmelo Anthony is playing out of his mind as of late which is a scary thought for any team that has to face him.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)
The number one matchup in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today is the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers have been playing without Kobe Bryant the past five games but other players have stepped up to post a 4-1 record in that span. These two teams played in a thriller the last time they met on April 15. The Lakers won 112-108 in overtime but the Mavericks definitely had their chances to win. Even though Dallas is a sixth seed, there is no reason to rule out the defending champs quite yet. They have the same players who stunned the world last season when they upset the Miami Heat to win their first title in franchise history and there is no reason to believe they can’t do it again.