Playoff atmosphere in final two weeks

April 01, 2008 7:00 PM
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Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |

LAST WK
NBA
PCT
1-2
31-31
50.0

It’s two weeks until the "real" season starts and the playoff picture is no closer to being defined today than it was a month ago.

In the Western Conference there’s Group A consisting of New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston, Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers. This six pack is vying for the top overall seed in the conference and home court advantage through the NBA semifinals.

Division winners cannot be seeded lower than fourth and so the Jazz are in excellent position to secure home court advantage for the opening round even though as many as five other teams may have better records at season’s end. And the Jazz have the NBA’s best home record, 32-4.

Group B consists of Dallas, Denver and Golden State. Each began the week with identical 45-28 records. One of these very good teams will be left out of the postseason despite a record that would probably have earned them the third or fourth best record in the Eastern Conference.

Denver and Golden State rate the edge over Dallas, which is without reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki. His return is questionable and his absence has clearly been felt. The Mavericks have lost five of their last six games. Six of their remaining nine games are against winning teams.

Four teams have already made the playoffs in the East with all three divisions having been clinched by Boston, Detroit and Orlando. Cleveland has also been assured of making the playoffs, up 2˝ games on Washington for the final home court advantage in the opening round as the fourth seed.

Toronto and Philadelphia hold down the sixth and seventh seeds and with the 76ers currently at 37-37. Atlanta (33-40) currently is seeded eighth, 2˝ games ahead of New Jersey.

With the Celtics, Pistons and Magic having already clinched their divisions these teams might make attractive "go against" teams as regulars are likely rested or given limited playing time to keep them fresh. But look for these teams to play hard in their final two or three games before the playoffs.

Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.

Spurs at Jazz (Fri): The teams have split their previous two meetings this season, with the home side winning by 6 each time. The Jazz are likely to be the smallest of favorites in this spot but the Spurs are playing with greater need. San Antonio has won seven straight entering the game. SPURS.

Magic at Cavs (Sat): Orlando has won two of three meetings this season including a one point overtime win when the teams last played on this court back in November. Orlando’s road record (24-13) is almost the same as Cleveland’s home mark (25-11). And the Magic have played better over the past two weeks. MAGIC.

Warriors at Hornets (Sun): The series is 1-1 with the road team winning both times. Each game went over the total and this game may well be priced at a similarly high number. With the aforementioned playoff implications we may see more deliberate possessions and fewer fast break opportunities. UNDER.