2012 NBA Playoffs: 5 Sputtering Teams That Will Still Make the Playoffs
As the 2012 NBA Playoffs draw near, some teams are sputtering while others are surging. In the Eastern Conference, the last playoff spot is up for grabs, but in the Western Conference the fifth seed is only three games up on the last team out.
Nos. 5-8 are all likely to change before the playoffs get underway, and the teams that have gained momentum after the All-Star break could make a late run.
New York Knicks
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Even though Boston still has a tough schedule the rest of the year, I still think the Celtics make the playoffs. That leaves the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks fighting for the eighth spot in the East.
The Knicks have won four straight, but have had a very streaky season and are sure to drop a few games soon. The Bucks, on the other hand, traded for Monta Ellis and need to figure out how his volume shooting works with the offense.
While the Bucks try to figure things out on offense, the Knicks really need to get it together on the defensive side of the ball. Everyone is blaming Carmelo Anthony for the losing, but he is one of the best pure scorers in the league.
Melo, Jeremy Lin and Mike Woodson are smart enough to figure out the offense, but defense really comes down to effort. If Tyson Chandler can get the whole team motivated as much as he is, the Knicks should make the playoffs.
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Currently in fifth place, the Grizzlies should make the playoffs, and may be able to make another run like last season. With Zach Randolph back from a knee injury, Memphis is a very talented team that could make a deep run in the playoffs.
Even if they do not go far, there is no doubt at this moment that the Grizzlies will be in the Western Conference Playoffs.
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Currently tied with Memphis, the Mavericks have an advantage over all the lower playoff teams: a superstar.
With Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas has one of the most unguardable players in the history of the game and someone who can always knock down tough shots.
If Lamar Odom and Brandan Wright can continue to develop, the Mavericks will have a solid bench for a playoff push.
While they have had a very up-and-down season, Dallas still has the talent to knock off a top-tier Western Conference team.
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Currently in seventh place in the West, Denver sits only one-and-a-half games ahead of the ninth seed. With the increased play of Kenneth Faried and the return of Wilson Chandler from China, Denver felt comfortable enough to trade away Nene at the trade deadline for JaVale McGee.
While their lack of size may hurt them, they are still a very talented team.
With nine different players averaging more than 8.6 points per game, the Nuggets have a very balanced attack that remains dangerous at the end of games.
While there is no one true star on the team, this often works to their advantage, as they can ride whichever players are hot at the end of games.
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Utah currently sits two spots back of the wild card, but the margin is only one-and-a-half games. Competing against the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, the Jazz have an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
While they are not as consistent as the Rockets or Suns, the Jazz are one of the best teams in the league on some days, and others they lose to lower-tier teams. If they can play more consistently, like they have been lately, the Jazz could be a real force to be reckoned with.
With Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson leading the way, the Jazz have leadership on the inside while bringing an influx of youth to the team at other skill positions. The Rockets and Suns have preformed well at times this year, but do not have the high ceiling of play present in the Jazz.
Utah plays Phoenix twice and the Rockets once in the rest of the season, and these games are must-wins for all teams involved if they wish to make a playoff push.
Already having beaten the top teams in both conference, the Jazz would be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs.