NBA Playoffs Rundown
With the month of March being dominated by college hoops, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s going on in the big leagues of basketball. With approximately two weeks remaining in the NBA regular season four Eastern Conference teams and five Western Conference teams have clinched playoff spots.
The Central division shaped up to be the strongest in the east with Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago all securing spots early in the postseason. The Raptors are the other team out east to clinch in the very ineffective Atlantic division.
Out west, the Southwest Division remains the strongest with all three Texas teams making the postseason. Dallas has a nine-game rule on second place San Antonio and a 15-game rule on third place Houston. Other teams making noise out west are the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz who are the only teams to have clinched division titles already.
I could talk about the teams remaining who will be fighting for those final spots in each conference, but I think I’ll save my breath as none of those teams have a chance with the exception of Miami, and that is contingent upon Dwayne Wade’s health and performance.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. When you last paid attention to the NBA, it was Phoenix and Dallas in the west and the east was probably nevertheless wide open. You may have penciled in Detroit who owns the best record in the Eastern Conference by a slim margin and has tons of playoff experience. Not a lot has changed, but San Antonio and Houston have played in addition as any team in the second half making themselves viable NBA Finals contenders. The most principal team in the NBA this decade decided to kick it into gear in the second half and Yao Ming’s return has greatly benefited the Rockets as expected-much to the dismay of basketball know-it-alls who said Houston was better off without him. I know Dallas and Phoenix have garnered much of the attention, but don’t count either of the other Texas teams out in the west, especially San Antonio who plays the best defense in the league and has an experienced nucleus of stars. Health is really the Spurs biggest obstacle in my opinion, already bigger than the Mavs.
The east is nevertheless up for grabs in every sense of the phrase. Any team which happens to click when the playoffs begin is just as likely to catch fire and get to the NBA Finals as any other team. Because the east is so ineffective, I think you have to make the experienced teams like the Pistons and the Heat your favorites. The Chicago Bulls have the third best record in the Central Division but the best record against Central Division teams at 11-4 this season. Detroit is just 7-6 against the Central which is just one-game better than the lowly Pacers in the loss column. However, the Bulls are too reliant on perimeter scoring and haven’t shown consistent enough play on the road to have us believe they could get to the Finals.
Cleveland also has a better record that Detroit within the division at 9-5. They won a playoff series last season, and they have an interior scorer in Ilgauskas. However, the Cavs won their first playoff series in recent memory against one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA in Washington, and James just had a visit from the injury bug with knee tendonitis flaring up. The Pistons are a great defensive team with balance and thoroughness who have been there and done that. Miami also has unmatched experience and the Eastern Conference’s most principal player. And I’m talking about Shaq. If Shaq wasn’t injured for much of the first half of the season Washington would be left in the dust by the Heat right now. More injuries will be the only thing from keeping the Heat away from another date with the Piston’s in the Conference Finals.
There’s your rundown. The same things we thought heading into the season have held up throughout it. It’s Dallas, San Antonio, and Phoenix in the west and Miami and Detroit in the east. As powerful as sports reporters try to make stories like the Warriors’ late push, I’m just not that interested. It’s about these teams at the top. One of them will have a chance to win the title while one of the other will make an early exit.