By Evan Troxel (Associate Editor of Sports Content)
Well, we’re back to another season of NBA Playoffs. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get started! All the teams who were in first place in their respective divisions from my Yard Rake article last November made it to the playoffs this season and all the teams who could not win many games did not make it to the playoffs this season.
The playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference are as follows: the #1 seeded Chicago Bulls (62-20 regular season record) vs. the #8 Indiana Pacers (37-45) will play the winner of the #4 Orlando Magic (52-30) vs. the #5 Atlanta Hawks (44-38) and the #2 Miami Heat (58-24) vs. the #7 Philadelphia 76ers (41-41) will play the winner of the #3 Boston Celtics (56-26) vs. the #6 New York Knicks (42-40) in the Conference Semifinals.
The playoff matchups in the Western Conference are as follows: the #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs (61-21) vs. the #8 Memphis Grizzlies (46-36) will play the winner of the #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) vs. the #5 Denver Nuggets (50-32) and the #2 Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) vs. the #7 New Orleans Hornets (46-36) will play the winner of the #3 Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. the #6 Portland Trail Blazers (48-34) in the Conference Semifinals.
How did the Indiana Pacers make the playoffs? If one of two Western Conference teams were in the Eastern Conference they could have stolen the Pacers #8 seed. Those teams would be the Utah Jazz (39-43) and the Phoenix Suns (40-42). Also, it’s very unfortunate for the Houston Rockets (43-39) of the Western Conference that they aren’t in the Eastern Conference because they would be in the #6 spot replacing the New York Knicks.
The teams who are in the playoffs this season who have been to (if not won) the NBA Finals in the last twenty NBA seasons (1990-1991 season through 2009-2010 season) are the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, and Philadelphia 76ers (in the Eastern Conference) and the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs (in the Western Conference). Out of those teams, the following teams actually won: the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat (in the Eastern Conference) and the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs (in the Western Conference). The only team in the Eastern Conference who is in the playoffs this year and has not been to the NBA Finals in the last twenty NBA seasons is the Atlanta Hawks. Maybe it’s their year to represent the Eastern Conference (if not win the NBA Finals).
Obviously, the teams who have proven that they can win the NBA Finals since 2006 (who are in the playoffs this season) are the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference. The Dallas Mavericks (Western Conference) made it to the Finals in 2006 when they lost to the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic (Eastern Conference) made it in 2009 when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and both teams are in the playoffs this season.
There are three teams in the NBA in the playoffs this season who have never lost the Finals before. The three teams are the Chicago Bulls with six championships, the Miami Heat with one, and the San Antonio Spurs with four. It is also interesting to note that these three teams have the top 3 winning percentages with the Spurs leading, the Bulls second, and the Heat third.
The Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and New Orleans Hornets are the only Western Conference teams who have never been to the NBA Finals and who made it to the NBA playoffs this season. The other teams who also haven’t been to the NBA Finals ever before and are not in the playoffs this season are the Charlotte Bobcats and Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference.