There are three and half weeks remaining in the NBA season and playoff races continue to heat up. Here are the top five games of the upcoming week involving teams in the playoff hunt.
#5- Miami Heat @ San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday, March 23): The Heat have been quiet contenders all year and they sit as the fourth seed currently in the east. With just 13 games remaining it is unlikely they get anything higher than the three seed, which would be a great accomplishment. Dwayne Wade will have random nights where he displays his greatness, but due to injuries and aging he lacks doing it consistently. This team doesn’t do anything that stands out but they play as a team and its working for them.
We all know how good the Spurs are as they displayed it yet again Saturday night with the best defensive performance on the Warriors so far this season. This will be a fun out of conference match-up, but is really a measuring stick for the Heat. If they can win, which will be unlikely with the Spurs home win streak, it would give the Heat a lot of confidence in their ability to knock of the Cavaliers in the East. The Spurs are just too good and won’t fall to the Heat in this game.
Prediction: Spurs 102-94
#4- Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Tuesday, March 22): The Rockets have to play well in the final stretch of the season or they may miss the playoffs. With only 12 games remaining they are sitting at .500 and tied for seventh in the west with the Mavericks. The Rockets versus Thunder games are always exciting because James Harden gets to play against his former team and close teammates. He loves to prove that they should have never traded them.
The Thunder are slowly becoming an after thought in the West because it’s a two horse race. No team in the West will beat the Spurs or Warriors to get to the Conference Finals. Many believed the Thunder could but they haven’t proven it so until the playoffs roll around they have to sit as the third best team in the West and hear about how its all Spurs and Warriors. With that said they are still a very good team and their struggles come in the fourth quarter. Because of those struggles I believe James Harden gets the best of his former team and wins a big game for the Rockets on the road.
Prediction: Rockets 109-107
#3- Toronto Raptors @ Boston Celtics (Wednesday, March 23): The Raptors still at second in the East and look poised to hold down that spot. The Celtics have fallen a bit and are currently the fifth seed in the east but can still work their way up to the third seed. Boston is 0-3 against the Raptors this season and if they want to become a threat in the east they need to prove they can beat the top teams in the conference. This is their last chance at the Raptors in the regular season, and get to play at home as well. It is extremely hard to sweep a team unless the match-up is just that bad so I think the Celtics get a much needed win.
Prediction: Celtics 94-91
#2- San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Saturday, March 26): This is the chance the Thunder are looking for to show they belong in the same class as the Spurs. They play them again in April but this is the last time they get the Spurs at home. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook need to dominate this game and win it to prove they belong in the discussion when it comes to teams coming out of the western conference.
The Spurs are more vulnerable on the road and it is hard to envision when Popavich might rest his starters but they can still get the first seed so there is a chance Popavich doesn’t. I think the Thunder are going to need this game more and because of that they will get a much needed upset win.
Prediction: Thunder 103-100
#1- Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors ( Wednesday, March 23): These two teams hate each other. It may stem from jealousy on the part of the Clippers but these games tend to get much more physical than most. The Clippers have not beaten the Warriors this season. The Clippers are much like the Thunder, in the fact they are really good but when it comes to competing for a title they are an after thought, thanks to the Spurs and Warriors.
The Warriors are chasing history and the greatness of Curry can be forever cemented if they break the Bulls record for wins in a season. They won’t lose to the Clippers at home.
Prediction: Warriors 120-107