The hourglass is just about out of sand for this year’s regular NBA season. Just a span of 8-11 games stands between all current playoff hopefuls and heated playoff competition. There are some true powerhouses in the mix, but are any first-round matchups poised for upsets?
As of now (March 30), the NBA Playoffs picture looks something like this:
1st-place Atlanta vs. 8th-place Brooklyn. (Atlanta leads series 2-0).
2nd-place Cleveland vs. 7th-place Miami.(Miami leads 2-1).
3rd-place Chicago vs. 6th-place Milwaukee. (Chicago leads 3-0).
4th-place Toronto vs. 5th-place Washington. (Toronto leads 3-0).
1st-place Golden State vs. 8th-place OKC(Golden State leads 3-1).
2nd-place Houston vs. 7th-place Dallas. (Houston leads 2-1).
3rd-plac Memphis vs. 6th-place San Antonio. (Series Tied 2-2).
4th-place Portland vs. 5th-place Los Angeles. (L.A. Clippers lead 2-1)
Eight potential upsets, really—stress on the word potential. But in reality, three matchups look like upsets-in-the-making: Miami vs. Cleveland, San Antonio vs. Memphis, and Los Angeles vs. Portland. Below, we rank them in their probability, with the top being the least likely.
Miami vs. Cleveland
This Miami squad, even sans Chris Bosh, and now with Josh McRoberts back, has underdog written all over it. It’s surely what’s propelled Dwayne Wade back to, well, Dwayne Wade mode. Their last matchup is truly indicative of what Miami can pull of if adequately prepped and played. Their five-man starting unit watches well against Cleveland’s starting five with Whiteside being the X-factor. Of course, Kevin Love wasn’t on the almost-full-strength Cavs team that lost to Miami that third bout, which is why Cleveland remain the favorites here. But don’t be surprised if Miami proves to be a real thorn in Cleveland’s side.
Los Angeles vs. Portland
Portland just has no easy answer for CP3. Jamal Crawford torched them in one victory, with J.J. Redick doing the same in another, but CP3 has been phenomenal in all three contests this year, especially proving his worth in a 36-point-12-assist-6-rebound game from the gods that ended in the Clippers’ only loss to Portland this season. Portland has the better overall and starting-five squad, but Paul just elevates the Clippers to a place the Blazers, namely Lillard, can’t seem to handle.
San Antonio vs. Memphis
Even though San Antonio has been plagued by injuries, it’s not the same team it was right around this time of year, last year. That doesn’t mean that Memphis isn’t for a major clash as the regular season series (2-2) and Sunday’s game (103-89, San Antonio) showed. All but last night’s games have gone to the wire between the Grizz and Spurs (107-101, 117-116 in Triple-OT, and 95-89). Yet, last night was the ultimate statement game as it was Kawhi Leonard (ending the game with 25 and 10) that proved how this series might ultimately go as it’s been the only game he’s played in against Memphis this season. It also happens to be the only game against Memphis in which San Antonio has dominated. Coincidence?