With less then 10 games remaining in the regular season handicapping the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs is next to impossible. The injury machine that is Derrick Rose makes the top seeded Bulls extremely vulnerable. Sure Chicago is excellent defensively and beasts on the boards but if Rose can’t stay healthy and regain his MVP form they will not have enough offense to make it to the Finals. Just a few weeks ago, the Magic seemed like a sexy Finals sleeper pick. Now not winning a single playoff game is a real possibility with Dwight Howard in danger of going under the knife if the herniated disk in his back doesn’t respond to treatment over the next two weeks. Then you have the Heat. The mental health of this team is the real question as they continue to flop in high profile games. In April alone, they have lost three nationally televised games; twice to the Celtics and once to the Bulls.
Speaking of Boston they look like the best bet right now to win this conference. They are relatively healthy, peaking at the right time and have the championship pedigree none of the other seven playoff teams can match. Age is not even a huge issue with this team despite Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all being on the wrong side of 33. An infusion of young talent from the likes of Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley along with the rejuvenated play of Rajon Rondo has given this team a youthful appearance despite the significant age of their big three.
With all that said, my money is still on Miami to make it to their second consecutive Finals. Despite their poor play as of late they should be able to raise their game in the playoffs. The tremendous offense/defense combination of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade is something that no one else in this conference can match. Nothing in this conference is a lock though which should make it six fun weeks of playoff basketball.
I’m surprised that Chris Paul is not getting more support as an MVP candidate. If you go by the definition of Most Valuable Player, Paul should win the award. The Clippers basically swapped out Eric Gordon for Chris Paul and have gone from a team that was 18 games under .500 last year in an 82 game season to a team that is 14 games over .500 this year in a 66 game season. This is a tremendous turnaround that is attributable almost entirely to one player. Now statistics play a factor as well and both LeBron and Kevin Durant are having better statistical seasons then Paul. Can you honestly say though that either the Heat or Thunder is significantly better than they were in 2010-11? You can’t which should make Paul a real threat to be named MVP.
With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season below are five games that could alter the playoff landscape.
April 16 - Denver at Houston
This is the second game of a true back to back. Whoever won last night’s game will have a chance to win the season series between these two teams. This is huge since they went into the Sunday night’s matchup tied for the 7th seed. If one team loses both games they will be in serious danger of falling out of the playoffs all together as Phoenix and Utah continue to lurk.
April 21 – Denver at Phoenix
Denver has already clinched the tiebreaker over Phoenix by winning the first two games of the season series. The Nuggets, however, held a slim one and half game lead over the Suns entering Sunday night’s action. If Denver has a bad week leading up to this game a win in Phoenix might be critical to securing a playoff spot.
April 21 – Orlando at Utah
A critical inter-conference matchup as Orlando looks to avoid slipping down to the 7th or 8th seed and a first-round matchup with the Bulls or Heat while Utah will need the game to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. And if you don’t think Orlando collapsing into one of the last two playoff seeds is possible check out of their remaining schedule. Are you a believer now?
April 22 – Orlando at Denver
See above except Denver probably won’t need the game as much as Utah will.
April 23 – Phoenix at Utah
If Houston and Denver takes care of business over the next week there is a chance this game will simply be for a few more ping-pong balls in the lottery. If both those teams let the Jazz and Suns hang around this could be an elimination game for the loser and a real opportunity to make the playoffs for the winner.
A Staff Writer for RotoExperts, Tamer Chamma is a two time top 50 Finalist in the WFAN Fantasy Phenom contest as well as a weekly guest on the SiriusXM "RotoExperts" morning show. Tamer is also a fill-in co-host for the show. You may contact Tamer @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RotoExperts_TC