The race for the top seed in the Western Conference carries a lot more significance than just home court advantage throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs. Whoever finishes first, likely the Spurs, will play either Utah, Phoenix or Houston while the runner up will draw the defending champion Mavericks or the run and gun Nuggets.
The Jazz and Rockets are too inexperienced and the Suns lack the talent necessary to give the Spurs or Thunder a series. On the other hand the Mavs, while certainly not the same team as last year, is playoff tested and certainly won’t go down quietly. The Nuggets are an annoying team to play in the first round because of their energy and fast paced style. While San Antonio or OKC would likely survive Denver they could come out of the series tired, which is not good news if the Lakers are waiting in Round 2.
The consensus among both fans and the media that Mike Woodson needs to win a round in the playoffs in order to shake the interim tag is nonsense. Barring a sweep in the first round, Woodson deserves a multi-year contract and the chance to take the Knicks to the next level. It is not his fault that the Knicks are in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and will likely play either the Bulls or Heat in the first round.
Woodson inherited an 18-24 team from Mike D’Antoni and has instantly made them one of the better teams in the NBA. The Knicks are 16-6 under Woodson with eight of those wins coming against teams above .500. He has Carmelo Anthony playing the best basketball of his Knicks career and has seemed to solve the Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire mystery. New York is 7-2 under Woodson when Stoudemire and Anthony are both in the lineup. Given their low seed, the Knicks probably don’t have a playoff run in them this year. But with the same squad coming back next year they will be a real threat to win a championship. That last sentence would never have been possible without the work Woodson has done in his first six weeks as Knicks head coach.
I was on the Bobcats being historically bad all the way back in mid-February. While they won’t have a chance to set the all-time worst record for an 82 game season they still had a shot going into Sunday night’s game against the Kings of setting the all-time worst winning percentage in NBA history. The 1972-73 76ers had a .110 winning percentage thanks to their 9-73 record. If Charlotte finishes 7-59 they will um best Philadelphia with a .106 winning percentage. Even if they do win at least one of their last four games you can still make a pretty good case that that the 72-73 Sixers were better.
The Bobcats point differential of -13.5 is worse than that Sixers team. Also with the condensed 66-game schedule the Bobcats should have won a few games simply based on weary teams playing their third game in three nights or seventh game in nine days. You can make the argument that the Sixers played a harder schedule 39 years ago because the teams they faced were more rested game in and game out. Either way this Bobcats team is one of the worst we have ever seen and probably will see for many years to come.
We have already seen one significant injury affect the playoff landscape with Dwight Howard done for the season due to back surgery. Due to the grueling regular season schedule it won’t be the last. It takes 28 games to win a championship and the intensity in the playoffs makes each game much more demanding than a regular season contest. The grind of the regular season will take its toll in the playoffs and at least one contender will see their dreams of a title die due to injury. I’m not making any predictions on what team(s) or player(s) will be affected but it is naïve to think that the rash of injuries we have seen through the first four months of the season won’t continue in the last two.
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