The NBA playoffs are a few days away from tipoff, yet the postseason schedule is far from set in stone.
Seeding is still at stake during the season's final two days, clouding us from plotting each team's concrete path to the NBA Finals. We do, however, know that the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs will represent their respective conferences as the No. 1 seeds.
We also know all 16 teams that have stamped a ticket to the postseason. The Atlanta Hawks fended off the New York Knicks for the Eastern Conference's final spot while the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies rose above the surprising Phoenix Suns in the West.
As of now, here is how the postseason matchups would shake up along with a premature look at the TV schedule.
|NBA Playoffs: Projected First-Round Matchups|
|Team 1||Team 2|
|No. 1 Indiana Pacers||No. 8 Atlanta Hawks|
|No. 2 Miami Heat||No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats|
|No. 3 Toronto Raptors||No. 6 Washington Wizards|
|No. 4 Chicago Bulls||No. 5 Brooklyn Nets|
|No. 1 San Antonio Spurs||No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies|
|No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder||No. 7 Dallas Mavericks|
|No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers||No. 6 Golden State Warriors|
|No. 4 Houston Rockets||No. 5 Portland Trailblazers|
|TV Schedule for Opening Games|
|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. 21||TBA vs. TBA||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 21||TBA vs. TBA||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 22||TBA vs. TBA||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 22||TBA vs. TBA||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 23||TBA vs. TBA||7 p.m.||TNT|
|Apr. 23||TBA vs. TBA||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
Wednesday bears major implications in the East, as the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls currently hold the same record with the No. 3 seed hanging in the balance. Although either squad would likely prefer to see the Washington Wizards in the first round, occupying the No. 4 seed would delay a potential matchup with the Miami Heat.
The West remained close all year with the fourth through eighth seeds distanced by just five games. Whichever team loses Wednesday's bout between the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies will occupy the No. 8 seed as the only club with fewer than 50 wins.
The thought of any matchup other than the Heat vs. Pacers settling the championship out in the East would have been absurd earlier this season. Now, however, it's fair to ask if the Pacers could suffer a second-round exit.
Since March 19, the once-imposing Pacers have gone 5-9, scoring just 86.8 points per contest. Roy Hibbert has gone MIA, averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in the last 11 contests.
Paul George generated early MVP buzz, but he has since drastically declined. Since the All-Star break, the 23-year-old has registered a 39.6 shooting percentage. After seemingly taking a step forward to stardom with improved shooting, George has since reverted.
Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry took a deeper look at his recent struggles.
Since January 25, his numbers have plummeted and George has morphed into a mediocre NBA scorer. The slumping Paul George is converting only 45 percent of his shots inside 8 feet — worse than Ricky Rubio. He’s making only 37 percent of his midrange jumpers — worse than Michael Carter-Williams. His 3-point percentage is down to 34 percent; that’s worse than Josh Smith! Ha-ha. Just kidding, it’s not that horrendous. But it’s still worse than Jeremy Lin.
Meanwhile, the Nets are 34-15 in 2014, thriving with Paul Pierce at the 4 and Kevin Garnett at center. With Derrick Rose yet again gone, Joakim Noah has taken over as the Chicago Bulls' star, leading the teams in blocks, rebounds and assists.
Either one of those squads could knock out the slumping Pacers in Round 2.
For all the stars and excitement flying around the Western Conference, the Spurs have once again emerged as the cream of the crop. After winning all 16 of their March matchups, the fundamental fiends hold the NBA's best record at 62-19.
As ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh noted, Gregg Popovich's squad has remained the gold standard despite often playing without their Big Three together.
His 64-win prophecy, however, was nullified by the Houston Rockets, who beat the Spurs on Monday night to sweep their season series. Sitting at No. 4, James Harden and Dwight Howard could be on a collision course with their Texas rivals in the second round.
When the current No. 8 seed (Memphis) ranks third in points allowed per game and has a chance to crack 50 wins, you know it's a tough conference. A healthy Marc Gasol makes Memphis a much different team than the sub-.500 club that lost its edge on both sides of the court without its star center.
The defensive-savvy team is a fish out of water in the fast-paced West. While the Grizzlies have scored 96 points per game, every other playoff squad is averaging more than 104 points per contest.
Ranking first and third, respectively, in three-point attempts, the Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers will likely trade deep balls in their first-round slugfest. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers could face the Golden State Warriors in one of the league's best brewing rivalries.
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