The playoff races in both the Western and Eastern Conference are heating up. The last day of regular season games is April 13th, which is only a month away. Four weeks from now 16 teams will be battling it out to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Warriors are the favorite but can still miss out on the number one seed in the west. The last month of the season is going to be great, so fasten your seat belts and get ready for a wild ride and here are the five best games with playoff implications for the upcoming week.
#5- Chicago Bulls @ Toronto Raptors (Monday 3/14): The Bulls have been bitten by the injury bug this season. One of their starting five is always hurt and many of the bench players have been in and out as well. It will be interesting to see how good they would be under first year head coach, Fred Hoiberg, as a healthy team but the fact of the matter is they are currently the ninth seed and one game behind Detroit for the eighth seed. If they find a way into the playoffs and become healthy they could be a dangerous team with a lot of postseason experience.
The Raptors on the other hand are having one of the best seasons in franchise history and are currently the second seed in the east. The Raptors are not seen as big threat to win the title but are quietly waiting for the playoffs in order to prove themselves among the elite.
Another aspect that makes this game interesting is the Bulls are 3-0 against the Raptors this year. Can the Raptors avoid being swept in the season series? I don’t think so.
#4- Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Monday 3/14): The surprising Trailblazers are going into Oklahoma City with something to prove. These two teams would be opponents if the playoffs started today as the Thunder are the three seed and the Trailblazers are the six seed. Portland would gain a lot of confidence by going on the road and winning this game. Oklahoma City has much to prove as well because they can’t beat the Warriors or Spurs and they seem like an after thought on contending for a title because of it. Each win could give them a boost of confidence but they must learn how to close out games which is their kryptonite this season. The Trailblazers will give them another opportunity because this will be a tight game. Not to mention the fun match-up of Lillard versus Westbrook. I believe Oklahoma City gets some much needed confidence and closes out this game in a thriller.
Prediction: Thunder 112-110
#3- Boston Celtics @ Toronto Raptors (Friday 3/18) : Most thought the Celtics would make the playoffs but few saw them as high as the third seed in the east. They are in this position because Brad Stevens can flat out coach. It also helps that Isaiah Thomas loves silencing the people who thought he was too small to play in the NBA. The Celtics sit just six games back of Toronto and with a strong closeout to the season they may even catch the Raptors and take over that two seed. The Raptors look to make a statement and prove they are the team that can dethrone LeBron in the east. This game will be a tone setter for the final month and even may be the game that decides who gets the second seed. I think Boston is getting better and more confident as the season goes on and may be a threat to the Cavaliers.
Prediction: Celtics 98-94
#2- Los Angeles Clippers @ San Antonio Spurs (Tuesday 3/15): Chris Paul hit the game winning shot to eliminate the Spurs in the playoffs last season. The Spurs have not forgotten that and have made sure that if they meet the Clippers in the playoffs this year, and there is a game seven, it will take place in San Antonio. San Antonio is doing what they do every year and is impossible to beat at home. The Spurs are 32-0 at home this season and have a 41 game winning streak dating back to last year. The Clippers are trying to get over the hump in the playoffs and beating the Spurs at home would give them the confidence they would need to make it to the finals in a complete surprise. I know they have very slim chances but anything can happen on any night. It won’t happen on Tuesday and the Spurs will stay undefeated at home and extend the home winning streak to 42.
Prediction: Spurs 108-100
#1- Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs (Saturday 3/19): The two best teams in the NBA with a combined 16 losses between the them will play on Saturday, with it being a possible preview of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors beat the Spurs by 30 on January 25th, but this time the Spurs are at home and are undefeated with a 41 game winning streak that could be up to 43. Is it Saturday yet? There aren’t many words needed to hype this game up. The Saturday Night Showcase has become the equivalent to Monday Night Football in value of entertainment and exciting match-ups and they are going to outdo themselves with this game. There is a lot that can happen in this game but I think the Spurs pull this one out at home because the Warriors will be on the second game of a back to back without Iguodala.
Prediction: Spurs 114-113