The 2014 NBA playoffs are rapidly approaching, with just over two weeks of regular-season play left on tap before the top eight teams in each conference buckle down for a potential finals run.
While a few franchises have long been locks to appear in the postseason, there are plenty more still fighting for a spot and just about every team is still jostling for a better seed as the 2013-14 campaign winds down.
Keep reading for a look at the latest standings across the league, plus check out some predictions on which bubble teams will make it in to the playoffs and which will be left out in the cold, see what Twitter has to say about all this and more.
|Current Standing||Team||W||L||PCT||GB||Playoff Odds|
NBA.com, Playoff odds courtesy of: http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds
*Playoff odds courtesy of John Hollinger via ESPN.
Eastern Conference Bubble Watch: New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks
The Knicks and Hawks are currently engaged in a bitter war for the last remaining playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This battle should almost certainly be waged until the end of the season and may come down to the final game, as both sides are so close.
Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal has the latest on this situation:
So NYK & ATL are now tied for 8th place in East. Knicks one game ahead in win column, Hawks one game better in loss column. ATL w tiebreaker— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 3, 2014
New York currently holds an extremely slight edge over Atlanta but has to be extremely careful not to end up with the same record. The Hawks own a tiebreaker over the Knicks and that could make a major difference.
Steve Popper of NorthJersey.com noted that the Knicks must sit clearly ahead of Atlanta in the standings in order to avoid missing the playoffs:
And with 3-game edge in loss column in conference play, Hawks can't lose tiebreaker to Knicks - who must pass them in standings, not tie.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) April 2, 2014
While the Knicks should feel far from comfortable, they can take solace in the fact that they are playing much better down the stretch than their Georgia-based rival.
New York has won 12 of its last 15 games, while Atlanta has dropped 21 of its last 28.
Knicks star swingman Carmelo Anthony explained the motivation behind his recent team’s surge after a convincing 110-81 win over the Brooklyn Nets, as per Al Iannazzone of Long Island Newsday:
We want to get there, that's the goal. Despite this emotional season, up-and-down season, I think it'd be a big deal for us to get in that spot, get in the playoffs. And that's our goal. We're fighting for that right now.
The team will still have to fight immensely hard to make it, as it has matchups with the Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Nets and Raptors again to close the 2013-14 campaign.
Atlanta’s schedule is much softer, with showdowns against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Nets, Heat, Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks to finish out the year. However, the Hawks haven’t shown much life in recent games and suffered a 13-point loss to the Bulls on Wednesday evening.
Which team will nab the No. 8 seed?
Cleveland is the dark horse in this race, as the Cavs have just over an 8 percent shot of making the postseason, as per Hollinger. They would likely need to run the table or suffer one loss, at the most, in their last seven games to pull off that miracle.
With the way things are going, expect the Knicks to band together and nab the No. 8 seed. The team will be extremely dangerous in that capacity and could pull off a major upset against the conference’s top seed to start the playoffs with a bang.
Predicted No. 8 Seed in East: New York Knicks
Western Conference Bubble Watch: Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies vs. Phoenix Suns
There are three teams fighting for the last two seeds in the Western Conference and each has a legitimate shot of not only making it into the playoffs, but also doing some damage once there.
NBA on ESPN has the latest look at the situation:
We're back to a 3-way tie for 7th and 8th in the West after the Suns and Grizzlies lost tonight. pic.twitter.com/tTQdbhC1z2— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 3, 2014
Jonathon Shipman pointed out just how much better the West is this year compared to the East:
Wow..DAL, MEM, & PHO, the 3 teams fighting for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference, would be the 3rd seed in the East. #NBA— Jonathon Shipman (@ShippySports) April 3, 2014
The Mavericks, Grizzlies and Suns are locked in a three-way tie for seventh through ninth place right now, which will make the end of the season absolutely riveting for not only fans of these organizations, but the league in general.
Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated attempted to round up all the possible outcomes and scenarios in one graphic:
Hollinger has Dallas with the highest chance of making the playoffs, which makes sense considering the team has winnable matchups against the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz before playing the Suns and Grizzlies in consecutive games to close the season.
The Mavs still have to be careful, however, as at least one out-of-contention opponent will be looking to play spoiler. According to Serena Winters of Lakers Nation, Ryan Kelly and the Lakers are looking forward to putting the kibosh on Dallas’ playoff hopes:
Ryan Kelly (1/2): "That's what we have to be motivated by (knocking Dallas out of playoffs) that, and pride, individual pride…"— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 3, 2014
Ryan Kelly (2/2): "I know I'm certainly not going to mail it in or check out & I believe that all my teammates will do the same." (on TWC)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 3, 2014
Hollinger, who works in the Grizzlies’ front office, pegs his team to have the next-best odds to emerge from this three-way tie and believes it should be the No. 8 seed in the conference.
Credit the Grizzlies’ 3-0 head-to-head advantage and tiebreaker over the Suns for this, as they would easily be in should both teams finish with the same record. They also have the weakest remaining schedule, with an adjusted home-road winning percentage of .507:
|Team||Remaining Opponents (Order Played)||Opponent’s Adjusted Winning Percentage|
|Phoenix Suns||@POR, vs. OKC, @NOP, @SAS, @DAL, vs. MEM, @SAC||.613|
|Dallas Mavericks||@LAC, @LAL, @SAC, @UTA, vs. SAS, vs. PHX, @MEM||.571|
|Memphis Grizzlies||vs. DEN, @SAS, vs. MIA, vs. PHI, @LAL, @PHX, vs. DAL||.507|
That certainly isn’t an easy schedule by any means, but it is more favorable than the Suns. Phoenix must go through a brutal stretch that includes road matchups with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs, plus a head-to-head showdown with the Mavs that could determine its season.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek spoke about the team hitting its stride at the right time, as per the Suns’ official Twitter feed:
"You have to be playing your best at the end. Especially with our schedule." - Hornacek on hitting stride at the right time #SunsVsKnicks— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 29, 2014
Unfortunately, Phoenix is in the midst of a two-game skid following a critical six-game winning streak. It will be tough to get back on track, especially with the upcoming slew of opponents.
It looks as if the Suns are the odd-team out in this situation and will have to drop back into the lottery after a stellar campaign.
Predicted No. 7 Seed in West: Dallas Mavericks
Predicted No. 8 Seed in West: Memphis Grizzlies