It's so close you can almost taste it.
Less than a week remains before the 2014 NBA playoffs officially get underway, and the suspense is intolerable.
Here's a look at the current playoff schedule after the Indiana Pacers locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Memphis Grizzlies downed the Phoenix Suns for the final spot in the Western Conference, courtesy of NBA.com:
Teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat look like the favorites to return to the finals once again, but the Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't ready to hand over either conference heading into the postseason.
With a few games still remaining in the regular season, several seeds could still be shifted around. Before the second season officially starts, here's a look at the current projected schedule and some of the contenders.
|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|
As simple as it may seem to say that one of the four top seeds will run the gauntlet and claim the championship, the fact is that nearly half of the field could feasibly hoist the trophy at the end of the postseason.
One matchup set for Wednesday night is a crucial one for both teams as both the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies are looking to avoid the San Antonio Spurs, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:
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 action will still be worth watching, 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.
While both the Mavericks and the Grizzlies are attempting to avoid playing the No. 1 seed, the Golden State Warriors are simply trying to stay away from more setbacks. Andrew Bogut suffered a rib injury that caused him to sit out the end of Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Warriors official Twitter account reported the forward will be out "indefinitely" following the rib fracture:
Losing Bogut not only means the Warriors will have to cope throughout the playoffs without him, but it will also be especially worrisome if they wind up facing the Los Angeles Clippers. Blake Griffin has been one of the best players in the league all season and a huge presence inside the paint.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated shared his thoughts on the loss of Bogut for Golden State:
Speaking of the Clippers, the unparalleled success for the team this season has them hoping for an appearance in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Thanks to a healthy Griffin and Chris Paul, Los Angeles looks like a contender in the West.
Though the table was essentially set for him coming in with a roster of stars, the job Doc Rivers has done is great in a historical sense for the Clippers, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
Meanwhile, the East looks like a playground for the Pacers and Heat before they ultimately face off in the Eastern Conference Finals. But with franchises like the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors hoping to continue their remarkable seasons, anything is possible.
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