The 2014 NBA playoffs are just days away as all 16 postseason contenders have clinched a berth and now await final seeding.
As SportsCenter notes, the upcoming playoffs are sure to be unlike any other in history:
Crazy stat of the day: This NBA postseason will be 1st time ever the Lakers, Knicks and Celtics will all miss playoffs.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 14, 2014
The New York Knicks are 10 games below .500 heading into their final two games and the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have combined to win 51 games this season, 11 fewer than the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs, who can win their 63rd game Wednesday.
Meanwhile, despite settling for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference for the third time in four years, the two-time defending champion Miami Heat will be a popular pick to return to the NBA Finals this June and hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy for a third consecutive time.
As Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman points out, head coach Erik Spoelstra isn't worried about what path his team will have to take to reach the promised land this spring:
Spoelstra on seedings, "None of it has really had a factor on any of our decisions going down the stretch."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 14, 2014
With only two days and 17 games remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, let's take a look at the updated 2014 playoff bracket and some key dates to know heading into the postseason.
2014 NBA Playoff Bracket (as of April 15 at 12 p.m. ET)
|First Round||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||NBA Finals|
|(1) Indiana Pacers (55-26)|
|(8) Atlanta Hawks (37-44)|
|(4) Chicago Bulls (48-33)|
|(5) Brooklyn Nets (44-36)|
|(3) Toronto Raptors (48-33)|
|(6) Washington Wizards (43-38)|
|(2) Miami Heat (54-27)|
|(7) Charlotte Bobcats (42-39)|
|(1) San Antonio Spurs (62-19)|
|(8) Memphis Grizzlies (49-32)|
|(4) Houston Rockets (54-27)|
|(5) Portland Trail Blazers (53-28)|
|(3) Los Angeles Clippers (56-24)|
|(6) Golden State Warriors (50-31)|
|(2) Oklahoma City Thunder (58-23)|
|(7) Dallas Mavericks (49-32)|
*2014 NBA playoff bracket according to NBA.com.
|Saturday, April 19||First Round Begins||ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT|
|Monday, May 5 (May 3-4)*||Conference Semifinals Begin||ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT|
|Tuesday, May 20 (May 18-19)*||Conference Finals Begin||ABC, ESPN, TNT|
|Thursday, June 5||NBA Finals Begin||ABC|
*indicates possible move-up date. Info via NBA.com
The 2014 NBA playoffs will tip off with four Game 1 matchups Saturday and continue through mid- to late June with the conclusion of the 2014 NBA Finals.
By Monday, May 5, the field will be narrowed to eight teams, and the conference semifinals will be underway. If the first round wraps up quickly, the start of the conference semifinals could potentially be moved up to Saturday, May 3, or Sunday, May 4.
Two weeks later, only four teams will be left standing, and the conference finals will get underway.
Both the Eastern and Western Conference series will tip off by Wednesday, May 21, but could potentially start a few days earlier depending on how short the conference semifinal series last.
Which NBA Finals format do you prefer?
Keep in mind the two series will alternate, playing a game every other day. ESPN will broadcast the Eastern Conference Finals, while TNT will air the Western Conference Finals.
But regardless of when those two series conclude, the 2014 NBA Finals are scheduled to tip off on Thursday, June 5.
One major change to make note of this year is the NBA Finals will switch to a 2-2-1-1-1 format instead of the traditional 2-3-2 format. Therefore, if the championship series requires a Game 7, the two teams would have an extra day off after Game 6 in order to allow time for travel.
Although the extra day hardly provides either team with an advantage, it remains to be seen how the new format will impact this year's NBA Finals if at all.
If the 2014 NBA Finals go the distance, Friday, June 20, would mark the season's final day.
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