As we wind down a very exciting NBA season, I cannot remember a time where the potential first-round matchups were so volatile. Despite March being well known for college basketball, it is not the only madness occurring in the sports world.
It is notorious that the East is lacking talent, but for five teams to be less than three games apart—all vying for the last two playoffs spots—is insanity.
As of this past Tuesday (which will be the point of reference for everything discussed in this article), the Heat are the seventh seed, and my own Brooklyn Nets are standing at the edge of the cliff in eighth.
The incredibly impressive Celtics are looming just one game out, followed closely by the Pacers and Hornets.
Keep in mind that whoever claims these two spots will most likely be slaughtered by Coach Bud and his Hawks or the Cavs.
Despite this impending doom, the teams are fighting with all they have. Each game has the intensity of a playoff matchup because each team knows all too well the importance of each win.
Miami hasn’t been worried about making the playoffs over the past few years, but with LeBron gone home and Bosh out for the year, Wade isn’t able to carry the team every game. Even with Hassan Whiteside stepping up big time, Miami just isn’t the powerhouse it used to be.
That said, Miami didn’t expect to be in the conversation of being overtaken for a playoff spot by Brooklyn or Boston.
Losing a fair amount of recent games made the Heat part of the discussion. They should be able to hold on to their spot if they can avoid a few key losses.
Despite the fact that they are my home team, I’ll be the first person to say how terrible Brooklyn is. They love losing big games, and crave any opportunity to surrender a huge lead to lose. Their five-game losing streak nearly tossed them from playoff contention, but since then, they have stepped up. Brook Lopez has been playing sensationally, finally feeling fully healthy after struggling with various injuries for years.
Additionally, the acquisition of Thaddeus Young has added much youth and intensity into the lineup and the difference is visible. But, the Nets still have a very tough remaining schedule, facing Atlanta twice and Toronto.
It pains me to say this, but it looks like Boston will likely claim the eighth seed. They have not only come into their own, but have flourished.
Kelly Olynyk, despite needing a good haircut, is a young team’s dream player: he’s a big man that can dominate down low, but can also drain the three ball. Evan Turner is playing great with the opportunity to be a star, and Marcus Smart is showing his very real potential. In addition, they own the tiebreaker over Brooklyn, which increases their chances in this extremely tight battle.
In my eyes, Indiana and Charlotte are less likely to make the run to the championships. Indiana just isn’t the same team without Paul George.
They don’t have the go-to guy who can ensure success on big possessions. While still a talented ball-club, I can’t see them going the distance on the back of George Hill and David West. The Hornets also don’t seem to have all the pieces put together.
Lance Stephenson hasn’t done for them what they were hoping he would, and despite having star point guard John Wall and dominant big man Al Jefferson, they just haven’t been able to close out big games—a skill more necessary now than ever.
Is it possible that either of these teams will claw their way in? Absolutely. With the standings so close any of these teams can make it, but if I had to put money on it, it wouldn’t be with either of these two.
The West is somewhat more solid, but by no means stable. Oklahoma City is holding the eighth seed, fending off a hungry Anthony Davis and his Pelicans, and a now struggling Phoenix team.
Despite being a fan of New Orleans, I don’t see the freak of nature–and potential MVP–Russell Westbrook letting them be overtaken. While the teams who are in the playoffs are pretty much locked up, position is not at all secured.
With the baby-faced assassin leading his Warriors to franchise record after franchise record, they have locked up the top of the Western Conference. But the same stability cannot be said for the rest of the playoff seeds.
Despite the Spurs living around sixth or seventh place for almost the whole season, the veteran franchise has the opportunity to secure a few late season wins and slide all the way to second place. That means the difference between the second and sixth seed are a mere two-and-a-half-games, and with about 10 games remaining, matchups and home court advantages are up for grabs.
Regardless of how the matchups end up locking in, we are, without a doubt, going to see an explosion of exceptional basketball. While all we can do is sit back and watch, we need to simply remember to enjoy the magnitude of what is before us.
Eber is a member of the class of 2017.