With only a couple of games remaining in the 2013-14 NBA regular season, the playoff scenarios are practically set in stone.
There may be a few surprises by season's end; however, this year's top contenders are already known.
The Western Conference is absolutely stacked once again this year, as five of its eight playoff-bound teams have already accrued at least 50 wins.
On the other hand, the Eastern Conference is a bit more diverse, with just the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat reaching the 50-win mark on the season.
This year's playoffs feature some lopsided matchups early on. However, the four-versus-five seed and three-versus-six seed games should provide some dramatic conclusions.
Let's take a look at how the playoff picture would look if the season ended on Sunday and provide some first-round projections for each of the eight matchups.
Projected Postseason Matchups
|2014 Projected Postseason First-Round Matchups|
|Team 1||Record||Team 2||Record|
|No. 1 Indiana Pacers||54-26||No. 8 Atlanta Hawks||37-43|
|No. 2 Miami Heat||54-26||No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats||41-39|
|No. 3 Chicago Bulls||47-32||No. 6 Washington Wizards||42-38|
|No. 4 Toronto Raptors||46-33||No. 5 Brooklyn Nets||43-36|
|No. 1 San Antonio Spurs||62-18||No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies||47-32|
|No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder||58-21||No. 7 Dallas Mavericks||49-32|
|No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers||56-24||No. 6 Golden State Warriors||49-30|
|No. 4 Houston Rockets||53-27||No. 5 Portland Trailblazers||52-28|
|2014 First-Round Predictions|
|Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks||Pacers|
|Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats||Heat|
|Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards||Bulls|
|Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets||Raptors|
|San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies||Spurs|
|Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks||Thunder|
|Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors||Clippers|
|Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers||Rockets|
|Sean O'Donnell's Predictions|
Indiana and Atlanta could be a lot closer than many would think. These teams have met four times during the regular season and split the series 2-2. The Pacers haven't been playing great ball of late and could be poised for an upset. However, the team is just good enough right now to squeeze through here.
Miami's had Charlotte's number through the regular season. Despite being plagued by injuries, the Heat are still a very dangerous team whenever they take the court. The Bobcats have been on a great late-season run, but they don't have the firepower to keep up with the Heat.
After losing to the Wizards twice earlier in the season, Chicago finally notched a win against Washington in early April. The Bulls are on a big hot streak right now, winning nine of their last 10 games and seven straight. That momentum will propel them through Round 1.
The Raptors and Nets figure to have one of the most highly contested first-round matchups. These teams split their regular-season series at two games each. The upper hand goes to Toronto here. The Raptors have home-court advantage, and the Nets are 16-24 on the road this season.
Can anyone stop the Spurs? With the best record in basketball, San Antonio still hasn't let its foot off the gas late in the season. It's safe to say the postseason favorite will move on with ease.
The Thunder may be on upset alert in Round 1. Dallas has a 2-1 record against Kevin Durant and Co. during the regular season. Each team is playing well down the stretch, and this one could come down to the bitter end. It's just tough to bet against the Thunder's explosive offense.
Here's another matchup that should be intense. The Clippers and Warriors split during the regular season and are both playing some solid basketball right now. Golden State is a great road team, but the Clippers are a better home team. Roll with Blake Griffin and Co. in this one.
Houston took three of four games from Portland during the regular season. Even though Portland has arguably been playing better than the Rockets of late, it's tough to go against a team with home-court advantage that owns a 32-8 home record over the regular season.