After spending last night discussing and this morning emailing how the final nine days of the regular season will play out, I figured I'd take my playoff predictions to the masses.
#1 Seed L.A. Lakers: Projected finish 66-16
Yes, I'm saying it now ... with a 9 1/2 game lead on the Nuggets the Lakers will somehow hold off Denver and finish 66-16 going 5-0 to finish the season. Pretty bold prediction I know ... what? The Lakers already have the #1 seed wrapped up? Oh. Well then.
#2 Seed Denver Nuggets: Projected finish 55-27
The Nuggets have four games remaining on their schedule and will finish 3-1. The Nuggets will beat the Thunder at home, lose to the Lakers in L.A., beat the Kings at The Can, and finished off the season with a win in Portland.
#3 Seed Houston Rockets: Projected finish 53-29
The Rockets have five games remaining and will finish 4-1 in that stretch to avoid the Lakers in a possible Round 2 matchup. The Rockets play Orlando, at Kings, at Golden State, New Orleans, at Dallas ... they will only stumble against the Magic tonight because of the shock of Manu Ginobili going down for the season and their excitement of being in the hunt for the Southwest Division title will be a distraction tonight.
#4 Seed Portland Trail Blazers: Projected finish 52-30*
The Blazers will finish the season 4-2 and gain homecourt against the Spurs after winning the season series 3-1 on April 8th in San Antonio. The Blazers play out the season: at Memphis, at San Antonio, L.A. Lakers, at L.A. Clippers, Oklahoma City, and finally the Nuggets.
#5 Seed San Antonio Spurs: Projected finish 52-30*
The Spurs were dealt a heavy blow last night as they learned they'll be without Manu Ginobili the rest of the way. You can read about it over at Pounding the Rock. The Spurs will go 3-3 in their final six games. San Antonio finishes their schedule at Oklahoma City, Portland, Utah, at Sacramento, at Golden State, and finally home against New Orleans. I see another loss to a sub .500 team and I think it'll be the Kings who will beat the Spurs to give the Rockets the division and allow Portland homecourt in the first round.
#6 Seed New Orleans Hornets: Projected finish 50-32
The Hornets have a tough six remaining on their schedule. 5 of their final 6 games are against playoff bound teams, but I see them finishing the season 3-3. They play: at Miami, Phoenix, at Dallas, Dallas, at Houston, and at San Antonio. Things look pretty brutal for the Hornets as they'll be battle tested to open Round One.
#7 Seed Utah Jazz: Projected finish 49-33^
The Jazz showed they were not ready to lay down against the Hornets in their 108-94 drubbing (score got close in garbage time) on April 5th. The Jazz will finish 2-3 in their final five games as they play: at Dallas, at San Antonio, Golden State, L.A. Clippers, at L.A. Lakers. The Lakers should have some motivation in that one as they will need to beat the Jazz to avoid playing them in the first round.
#8 Seed Dallas Mavericks: Projected finish 49-33^
The Mavs will beat the Jazz tomorrow night in Dallas to even up the season series 2-2, but the Mavs will stumble after that and finish 3-2 in their final five games, 2-2, after an emotional win versus the Jazz. They should be highly motivated to get to the 7th seed to avoid the Lakers, but I just don't see it happening with losses to both the Hornets in the Big Easy and a loss to the Rockets on April 15th. The Mavs play: Utah, New Orleans, at New Orleans, Minnesota, and Houston.
Tiebreakers: After so many possible scenarios we'll see two tiebreakers come into play.
*The first will decide homecourt in the San Antonio vs. Portland series and the Blazers will gain the edge because of their 3-1 series win in head-to-head games.
^The second tiebreaker is a biggie. The Jazz will finish tied with the Mavs and since their season series will also be a tie we move on to conference records. The Jazz hold a 7 game lead over the Mavs there with a 32-15 record over the Mavs' 25-22 mark. So, the Jazz will avoid the Lakers in Round 1 and set up what should be a very tough series against the Nuggets.
Denver and Utah tied the season series 2-2 with both teams able to hold their homecourt.
Predicted Round 1 matchups:
(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (8) Dallas Mavericks
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) Utah Jazz
(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) New Orleans Hornets
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) San Antonio Spurs
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