All but 1 of the playoff teams are set, so it’s time to start analyzing the matchups and trends going into the postseason. We’ve all seen how important momentum is when competing for a championship. There are some teams who are headed into the playoffs on the right foot and some who are spiraling down, headed for an early exit.
San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs have won 8 in a row and snatched the top seed in the Western Conference from the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re playing extremely well and can take a little extra rest in the last few days before the playoffs. Their first round matchup will most likely be against the Utah Jazz or Phoenix Suns, both teams the Spurs are capable of handling easily. However, once you get past the first round, no path in the West is going to be easy, and the Spurs could be facing a rematch in the second round against the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that knocked them from their top spot last year. But if the Spurs keep playing the way they have, they’ll be tough to beat. I’m thinking the Spurs and Thunder in the Western Conference Finals will be an amazing series to watch.
Indiana Pacers – The Pacers are locked in to the 3-seed, so they can take all the rest they need these last couple days of the regular season. They’re playing some of the best team basketball we’ve seen all season. They don’t have a true superstar, but they make up for it in other ways. I don’t know if these guys can compete with the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls just yet, but it’s possible.
Boston Celtics and New York Knicks – Both teams that seemed to be gaining a lot of momentum down the stretch but have lost a little bit of their fire. Either team could still be dangerous in the playoffs, but they don’t look as scary as they did a couple weeks ago.
Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers – Both teams from L.A. have a lot of potential. The Lakers’ big come-from-behind win over the Thunder could give them the confidence and momentum they need to make a strong run. We’ve seen how badly this team can play on the road, but there’s definitely no one looking forward to facing them in the playoffs. The Clippers have been playing well, but it’s a popular opinion that they’ve been figured out. Blake Griffin has too many weaknesses as a post player, and if you can exploit these, you can shut down the Clippers’ offense. If the Clippers come across a coach with a smart game plan, they might be toast.
Memphis Grizzlies – While a lot of wins down the stretch are important for momentum, the Grizzlies have had a soft schedule to finish off their season. They may get a quick wake-up call when they have to face the Clippers or Lakers in the first round, but we’ve seen what this team is capable of. They’re a team that thrives on momentum and energy from their fans. They upset the Spurs in the first round last year and gave the Thunder a really solid run. They’re an even better team this year, and could be one of the surprise teams in the West.
Chicago Bulls – It’s tough to say the top seed in the Eastern Conference has no momentum going into the playoffs, but they better be careful. Their MVP, Derrick Rose, has missed about half the season with various injuries. He’ll be back for the playoffs, but who knows how fragile he is. The Bulls also haven’t really had time to set a solid lineup and gel together as a team. Unless they pull some miracle team chemistry together, they could be in trouble.
Dallas Mavericks – The defending champs have been slipping down the standings for weeks now. They really can’t seem to get anything going and the odds of them repeating the magic they found last year seem slim to none. As many people, including myself, predicted before the season, the offseason moves that this team made were not going to help them get back to the Finals. Mark Cuban may have some grander scheme in mind, but he’s not going anywhere this year.
Orlando Magic – No Dwight Howard? See ya!
Of course, this is the postseason, and anything can happen, but there are some teams that just have a better look heading in.
Who’s ready for some playoff basketball?