Most teams in the National Basketball Association have 14 games remaining on their respective schedules give or take a couple. While there are already several things locked up at the moment such as the Miami Heat being the one seed in the Eastern Conference, there are also a number of ‘ifs ands or buts’ as well.
Putting the Heat in Perspective
Miami now holds the NBA’s second-longest winning streak in league history with 25-straight victories. The Heat hosted Charlotte last evening (update below) and I have every expectation the string will go to 26 straight. I found a stat very interesting that may speak volumes or more say nothing at all about the competition in the Eastern Conference.
Miami defeated Charlotte last night to extend the streak to 26 straight games.
While the Heat obviously had another 10-0 week over their last 10 games, only two other Eastern Conference teams (Washington and Brooklyn) had winning stretches (6-4) over the same period of time. Everyone else was .500 or below. Compare that to the Western Conference where the current top eight seeds in the playoff race all had records of 6-4 or better over their last ten games.
What does this mean? As I said, it could say a lot or very little. Anyone would lay money on the Heat right now to win the NBA Championship but will the Eastern Conference Playoffs offer them enough of a challenge to prepare them for San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the Clippers or even Denver? Right now, my money is still on Miami but it’s something to look for down the stretch.
What We Know in the East
Miami is currently 12 games up on current second-seed New York and will clearly enter the playoffs with home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs at the very least. Milwaukee has an eight game advantage over Philadelphia in the race for the final playoff spot. In other words, we already know the eight teams who will make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference because it would literally be a miracle for Philly to catch the Bucks at this point.
What we don’t know is just how the seeding will break down other than the top spot. Indiana and the Knicks will probably take the race for the second spot right down to the wire and Atlanta and Brooklyn could conceivably make a run the two-spot as well although a longer shot indeed. Milwaukee is a game and a half behind Boston and would desperately like to catch the Celtics in order to avoid the Heat in round one.
What We Know in the West
Denver has 15 straight games and has closed to within five of conference leading San Antonio. That may be a tough task to catch the Spurs, but they are just three back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second spot which could pay huge dividends later in the playoffs. OKC has goals of their own as they are 2.5 games behind the Spurs for the one-seed.
Near the bottom, the LA Lakers actually have some breathing room simply because teams below them keep losing. LA has moved to two and ahlf games ahead of Utah and three games ahead of Dallas and Portland for the eighth seed in the West. Don’t count out the Mavs who are on a 7-3 stretch in their last ten and might be playing their best basketball.
What we don’t know in the West is just is how seeds three, four and five will shake out. The Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies could see plenty of movement in and around each other over the next three weeks and that means going from perhaps playing each other to having to play the Thunder or Spurs if they aren’t careful.
What I am confident in telling you is don’t bet the farm on the Lakers like many have suggested. They look like shoo-ins for the playoffs now, but they lack any real consistency to hang with the big dogs out West.