There are still a lot of moving parts for the 2014 NBA season with just a few days left in the regular season, but the playoff schedule is nearly set.
With the matchups not quite locked in, the official schedule for each round has not been announced. But the start of each series has already been announced by the NBA, as listed below:
- April 19: 2014 NBA Playoffs begin
- May 5: Conference Semifinals begin (possible move-up to May 3 or 4)
- May 20: Conference Finals begin (possible move-up to May 18 or 19)
- June 5: The NBA Finals begin
Here's a glimpse at the current playoff picture provided by NBA.com:
Some of the most crucial seeds like the No. 1 overall spot in the Eastern Conference and the final team in the Western Conference are still up in the air.
The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat both still have a shot at taking home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but Indiana controls its own destiny. As for the final spot in the West, both the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns still have a shot, but the Grizzlies hold the upper hand coming out of the final weekend of the regular season.
While much is still not known about the exact start of some of these pivotal series, here's a look at the playoff schedule for the weekend as it currently stands.
|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|
|Opening Weekend Playoff Schedule|
|Apr. 19||TBA vs. TBA||3 p.m.||ABC|
|Apr. 19||TBA vs. TBA||5:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Apr. 19||TBA vs. TBA||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Apr. 19||TBA vs. TBA||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Apr. 20||TBA vs. TBA||1 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 20||TBA vs. TBA||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Apr. 20||TBA vs. TBA||7 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 20||TBA vs. TBA||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
Following a long year where several teams had to fight through adversity—none more than the Chicago Bulls—every team in the postseason has worked hard to earn its place in the second season.
A few of the familiar franchises like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks all missed the postseason this year. But even without some of the most notable teams in the league making it to the playoffs, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes the NBA will still thrive, per Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick of USA Today:
It's unfortunate for those franchises. But the league, just because of how it's grown and the depth of teams and organizations, I don't think it's a major deal either.
Those teams have proven to be great organizations, and they'll be in the playoffs in the near future and in the short term, once in a while to not have them in doesn't impact the playoffs negatively at all.
In the West, expect to see four series that will pit some of the best teams in the NBA against one another from top to bottom. With five teams at 50 or more wins and the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks one win away from that mark, the West is loaded once again.
But one of the best teams in that crop lately has been the Portland Trail Blazers, who have completely turned their season around thanks to the return of LaMarcus Aldridge. ESPN Stats & Info points out the turnaround for the Blazers since his comeback:
The Blazers are actually 7-1 now since his return following the huge win over the Warriors on Sunday. During that stretch, Aldridge has averaged 24.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, returning to his form that made the Blazers a top contender earlier in the season.
As for the East, just two teams sit at over 50 wins as both the Pacers and Heat are clearly the cream of the crop, but teams like the Toronto Raptors, Bulls and Brooklyn Nets have hopes of pulling off a miraculous run.
Though both Indiana and Miami are contending for the top overall seed, Mike Greenberg of ESPN points out that either team could be working toward avoiding a matchup with a team that looks like a contender coming into the playoffs:
As the playoff slate finally gets underway on Saturday, all 16 teams in the postseason have hopes of pulling off some madness in April. But with some of the best franchises like the San Antonio Spurs and the Heat still holding the cards, getting to the top of the throne for any of the other teams in the running will be difficult.