While the top spots and home court seems to be all but locked up in both conferences, the division winners’ opponents are still yet to be determined. Let’s take a look at the bottom playoff teams and I’ll give you my NBA picks for what first round matchups I think we will be seeing.
Is there anyone who could beat the Heat in a playoff series?
(1) Heat vs. (8) Bucks
This might be the easiest one for NBA cappers to predict. Milwaukee is still 2 ½ games back of the Celtics with only six games to play, and the Heat have already wrapped up the number one seed. The Bucks have beaten Miami once this season in Milwaukee, but they have also been beaten twice. They play on Tuesday, but I doubt the Heat will be playing a full lineup. I see the Heat in five games in this potential series.
(2) Knicks vs. (7) Celtics
The Knicks are 2 ½ games up on Indiana, and I see them holding on to number 2. The Celtics could very easily move up still, but I don’t think they will. Even though it will probably be close and entertaining, the Knicks would win this matchup in six games or less.
(3) Pacers vs. (6) Bulls
While the Bulls sit 5th right now, with all their injuries, I think they fall one spot from their current standing down to 6th. Their opponent would likely be their divisional rival Indiana. These two teams hate each other, and I think it would be a perfect playoff matchup. However, barring a Derrick Rose comeback of epic proportion, the Pacers would win in six very tough games.
(4) Nets vs. (5) Hawks
The Nets are 3 ½ games back of the Pacers for 3rd right now, and two games up on the Bulls. The Hawks only have four games left which is a nice advantage against some of these other teams who have six or even seven left. Even though it should be the closest, I think a series like this would see the Nets win in five or six games.
(1) Spurs vs. (8) Lakers
Even though they have disgraced the purple and gold this season, I am still a believer that the Lakers will make the playoffs. Utah is only a half game up right now, but they have to play the Thunder and the Grizzlies this season. The Lakers’ next two games are against non-playoff teams, and then they get the Warriors at home followed by a likely resting Spurs team. They finish with the Rockets at home, who might also be resting at that point. The Spurs should still hold of OKC, even though their injuries to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are very concerning.
(2) Thunder vs. (7) Rockets
While the Thunder and Spurs could flip flop in their seeds, I see the Thunder getting number two and drawing the Rockets. This could be an entertaining series, as James Harden would be coming back to Oklahoma City to face his old mates. Even though it would make for good theater, the Thunder would win in five games or less.
(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors
Although the Nuggets still hold a two game lead on LA for the 3rd seed, the loss of Danilo Gallinari and the uncertainty surrounding Ty Lawson for the Nuggets is too much. I think LA will win their way to the third seed. A matchup with the Warriors would be great, and I think it could be a long series. They matchup well against one another, and it could be a high scoring series. I still would see the Clippers winning in what could be one of only a few first round seven game series.
(4) Nuggets vs. (5) Grizzlies
In what could be an epic seven game series is the Grizzlies and Nuggets. If Denver falls to the 4th seed, these two could draw some blood. Memphis is firmly locked no lower than 5th, and either way it works out, I would see the Grizzlies winning this one in seven games, although it’s probably as close as flipping a coin.