The 2014 NBA Playoffs are only weeks away and they do look to be oh-so exciting, but before we move onto postseason play, we’ve got a few things left to wrap up here in the regular season. The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat will hold down the top two seeds in the East, and the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder look to have things under control in the West, but there will be some major battles at the bottom of the barrel for teams to either hold onto their playoff seed, or lose it and start their offseason earlier than hoped.
The Western Conference may edge out the Eastern Conference in firepower, but the East is holding down its own. Despite only having two teams above .500 to begin the season, we now only see two teams under that mark as March comes to a close. Every team in the Western Conference playoff race may be above even, but we’ll get to them later.
This season has been embarrassing for most of the Eastern Conference, but they still have some scrappy teams that could test top-seeded Indiana and Miami in the first round of the playoffs. Two of those teams include the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, who are currently fighting for the eighth seed in the East, and are only separated by 1.5 games. The race is close, and the Hawks have the upper-hand, but they’ve given the Knicks a chance at creeping closer with six-straight losses. New York has closed the gap a little bit, but hasn’t been able to find too much success recently dropping three of its last four games.
With games against the Golden State Warriors, Heat and Brooklyn Nets (twice), I don’t think the Knickerbockers will be able to catch up to the Hawks and will miss out on the playoffs after finishing with the second seed just last year.
The West, like I said, has had a little easier time winning games this season, and because of that, we’ve got a great three-team race that is only separated by a half game right now. Those three teams are the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
Phoenix found itself in Dallas’ position just within the past two weeks, but a six-game winning streak has put it in the seventh spot in the Western Conference. Despite a slow start to the season, the Grizzlies are currently in the eighth spot thanks to their defense (third in NBA at points given up at 94 PPG). Although the acquisitions of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis have worked out for the Mavericks and helped provide top 10 rankings in points and assists per game, they are ninth in the West and not currently in the playoffs.
The West always has these battles for a spot at the end of the regular season, and it’s always great to see who comes out on top. These three teams all deserve playoff spots, but unfortunately only two can move onto the postseason.
My prediction is the Suns and Grizzlies will move on to postseason play, while the Mavericks will be looking forward to next season. The coming out parties of Goran Dragic and Gerald Green have made the Suns relevant again, and despite a tough schedule the rest of the way, I think they can win just enough to retain their playoff spot. As for the Grizzlies, you always hear the saying “defense wins championships,” and although they may not be a title contender, I believe their defense will pull them through to the playoffs. The Mavericks will miss out on the playoffs just for that reason: they don’t play defense! Dallas may be able to score 100 points against anyone, but giving up 102.6 points per game (22nd in NBA) is just not going to get the job done.
The way the NBA goes, my predictions could be completely wrong and I might look like I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s just how it is. Any team mentioned in this article has a real chance at squeezing into the postseason, and as far as who actually does make it, well, we’ll just have to watch and find out.