There’s been some talk about the playoff format in the NBA changing to ensure all teams with the best record get a shot at the title, instead of each division getting an equal number of representatives in the more conventional East v. West bracket set up.
There is only one additional Western Conference team included in the top 16, which would be Phoenix. The Atlanta Hawks who upset the Indiana Pacers in game one this weekend, would be bumped out of contention.
Take a look at the matchups below and see who would be up the creek without a piece of hardwood to paddle with:
1st Round Match-ups
(1) Spurs v. (16) Bobcats
San Antonio will be hard pressed to find an opponent that will push them to the brink of elimination no matter who they play. So you better believe it won’t be Charlotte, who hasn’t won a playoff GAME in franchise history, throwing a wrench in its plans to get back to the NBA Finals. The Bobcats were 8-2 to end the season but were only able to muster 12 comebacks during the course of the season when down after half. In the playoffs and against the Spurs you need to be able to battle back and Charlotte wouldn’t have a hope against the experienced and disciplined Spurs, who only lost 1 game when leading after 3 frames.
(2) Thunder v. (15) Nets
Brooklyn probably would have rethought it’s tanking strategy that it employed late in the season knowing one more win would have pitted them against the slightly less intimidating Clippers who are ranked 3rd in this format (depending on your definition of intimidating, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are pretty daunting).
Brooklyn is filled with swagger and experience but with Russell Westbrook back the Thunder hasn’t looked more dangerous in a while. OKC would get a bit of a breather because they would no longer be playing Memphis. THE Memphis who knocked them out of contention in the Eastern semis last year in 5 games, and would make quick work of the slower and aging Nets who recorded a NBA low 17 rebounds in their February 1st match-up against the Thunder who score about 106 pts per game and snatch just under 45 rebounds. The Nets are terrible on the boards.
(3) Clippers v. (14) Wizards
Coincidence of not, 16-25 is the record for teams helmed by Chris Paul in the post season. These Clippers haven’t been together for that long and although are ranked 7th in defensive efficiency they are 21st in that same category against teams with a winning record.
You know who has one of those, the Wiz. Who are young, lack experience and took some ill advised early jumpers in their first playoff win in a seven game series since 1979 this weekend against the Bulls.
John Wall v. Chris Paul… in the two regular season game this year both teams were not complete when they competed. In the first Paul picked apart Washington for 12 assists and 38 points. The next game with Nene back in the line-up and no CP3, the Clippers still managed a victory thanks to Blake Griffins 29 points and DeAndre Jordans 17 rebounds and 14 points.
Yes, Nene is back and healthy and playing alongside Marcin Gortat, (when both on the floor out score opponents by 10 points in 100 possessions), however, one team in LA is always destined to be successful and since it’s not the Lakers, it should be Lob City.
(4) Pacers v. (13) Suns
The Suns are the most beneficial team in the top 16 rankings format. They actually get to experience the post season and on top of it play the Pacers who drop to 4th in the rankings and who are in turmoil. If dropping game 1 to Atlanta (a team who isn’t even in the conversation when we use top a 16 format) is a reality, imagine how well a Suns team would do against Indy whom they’ve given trouble too all season:
- The Suns beat the Pacers for the first time on their home court in 6 week despite scoring only 11 points in the 3rd Q
- Phoenix outscored Indy 21-0 on fast break chances, 40-7 in bench points and 24-3 on made 3’s
- Phoenix has the 3 highest scoring halves against the Spurs (66pts the most on Jan 30th 1st half)
(5) Heat v. (12) Bulls
Lead by Joakim Noah, the Bulls are in the same over achieving boat as the Toronto Raptors. After losing Derrick Rose (again) and Luol Dang traded it seemed as though the 1990’s power houses would be looking forward to the draft. Instead they pulled together and would give the Heat a good run, in terms of effort and fight.
Chicago has historically defended LeBron James well, holding him to 22.5 points and “just” 45FG% in last 8 games. Compare that to 27 points and 56 FG% against the rest of the league since April 14, 2013. In particular stifling his jumpers (26.5% effectiveness v. the Bulls compared to 39.3% against the rest of NBA) , but the Heat have too many extra weapons to combat Noah, Taj Gibson and their grit.
The result would be similar to the 2013 East semi final loss to the Heat last season, if these two met in the first round of the playoffs.
(6) Rockets v. (11) Raptors
Now this is an interesting matchup. Both teams thrive in a fast paced environment, share the ball equally (Toronto average 21.2 assists and Houston 21.4).
The Rockets went 25-11 to end the season and boasted one of the top 5 offenses in the league. Houston can also pull put the big games, being one of just two teams to win against the top two seeds in each conference, but quick play leads to sloppy possessions and Houston cough up 16.3 turnovers per 100 possession, 2nd worst in the league. In fact the Rockets have 38 combined TO’s against the Raps this season.
The Raptors rely on DeMar DeRozan in clutch situation, yet he hasn’t come through, just 1 of 11 from 3FG in those situations. His nervous performance in game 1 against the Nets will most likely not continue and because of that he and Kyle Lowry could send Houston into brief tail spin, but one they would maneuver out of.
Toronto would make H-Town sweat it out because the style of play and pace is more familiar for them, than with its matchup this year against the Nets. But for the Raps, JV is no match for Dwight Howard under the boards regardless if how much he’s flourished following his DUI charge, and Houston takes 72.7% of its shots from behind the arc. A Raptors team, who’s spotty when committing to its defense first strategy, would struggle against that.
(7) Trail Blazers v. (10) Mavs
At one point this season Portland were one game behind San Antonio in the West for top spot, and then went 23-18 winning 9 of last 10 games.
Dallas is full of old timers; Dirk Nowitzki, 35, Shawn Marion, 35, Vince Carter, 37, who combined to play 237 of 246 games this season. The second playoff team reppin’ Texas offsets that with younger legs in Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon.
Don’t sell them short, Carter has more bench 3’s than anyone in the league this year (146) and in Dallas’ real series they are in tough with the equally experienced San Antonio.
Playing the Blazers would be reprieve for the Mav’s who would prove disco isn’t dead and would be allowed to work the ball and their magic against the Blazers who force just 12.2 turnovers per game, lowest in the NBA.
(8) Warriors v. (9) Grizzlies
This season’s west number 6 and 7 ranked teams would be dropped down a few pegs in our new absolutely fake playoff scenario. It wouldn’t change the ferocity that this series would breed.
Golden State was the only team (besides Toronto) to lose 10 games while a shooting better FG% than its opponent. Good news for the Grizz who only scored 100+ points in 27 games (won 23 of those) while averaging 46.4% shooting on the season.
The Grizz can make something out of nothing, and although sit 27th in point per game still reached 50 wins due to their defense (3rd).
Out of 16 quarters played in the regular season, GSW only managed 30+ points twice against the Grizzles. Splitting the season series and winning the last two the Warriors reaching 100+.
Offense wins games (51 in Golden State’s case) but defense wins championships so go with Memphis in the fictional 1st round match-up.
Sad news for the East after round 1 is all said and done, with all hopes relying on Miami to bring home the title, and I’m sure most would rather drink sour milk than watch the hater friendly Heat bring home it’s third title in a row.