It’s time to ask this question about the 2014-15 NBA season, which of those teams that are on the bubble have a chance of making it to the playoffs? There are about nine such teams right now. They are either in the bottom two playoffs spots or just a few games out of those final positions. Before we look at those clubs, let’s take a moment to review a few of this past week’s more important games.
We thought the Mavs would lose to both Oklahoma City and Houston, but they did not. The Mavs were beaten by the Thunder on February 19 by the score of 104 to 89, and, as noted, Oklahoma City’s rebounding was a factor. In their 111-100 win over the Rockets, the Mavericks outplayed that team in just about every area, giving Dallas a “W” at home.
On February 20, we considered the Raptors at the Hawks and the Cavs at the Wizards. Although the Hawks stellar defense should have been the difference-maker, it was not. Atlanta was hammered by Toronto, losing 105 to 80. The Toronto/Atlanta series went to the Raptors three games to one, making the them the only team to have beaten the Hawks more than twice this season. That may be a harbinger of things to come if these two top teams in the East meet in the playoffs.
In the other contest, it was LeBron James and Cleveland all the way, as the visiting Cavaliers beat Washington convincingly 127- 89. Both teams started the game with 33 wins. Although both clubs are second in their respective divisions, they seem to be going in opposite directions, as over their last 10 games, Cleveland is 8-2, while Washington is 2-8.
Here’s a considered of the NBA bubble clubs. Which have the best shot at a postseason appearance?
Miami Heat (23-31)
These are not the Miami Heat that dominated the NBA for the past few seasons, but they are certainly good enough to get into the playoffs, and, perhaps, get past round one. The final two Eastern Conference teams that make it into the playoffs are just about guaranteed to do so with a losing record. Miami comes into this week having won just three of their last 10 games. The best things they have going for them is their second-ranked defense and the fact that they just picked up SG Goran Dragic from the Suns. He may help them stay in the hunt.
Charlotte Hornets (22-32)
The Hornets are presently below the line as far as the postseason goes. They have lost five straight. Like the Heat, they possess a very sound D, but unlike Miami, they have a good group of rebounders. A big problem is the loss of PG Kemba Walker (knee). It’s projected that he will be back by mid-March. However, in his stead, Charlotte does have Mo Williams, a very solid point scorer who was recently with the Timberwolves.
Boston Celtics (20-33)
Of the six teams in the East who are on the bubble, the Celtics are the one that is least likely to make it into the postseason. However, their better than average offense, which includes a lot of great ball movement to set up plays, could help them put on a strong run as the season winds down. The addition of former Phoenix Sun Isaiah Thomas to the roster could help the team at both ends of the court.
The Pacers are one of those lopsided NBA teams. They put a sound defense on the court, and they are a very good rebounding club. But they also have a tough time scoring points, and they offer poor ball movement. The trouble is there’s not a real go-to guy on this team, although center Roy Hibbert shows up every night to play. Can he be the guy?
Can PG Reggie Jackson, who was just acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder, be the answer to Detroit’s woes on offense? He will certainly help. The team is 21st in scoring and 19th in assists. Jackson should rehabilitate those numbers to some degree. The Pistons have solid guys in the paint but defense is average.
Brooklyn Nets (22-31)
Right now Brooklyn is in the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. It will be tough for them to hang onto that position. Both offense and defense are weak on this team. They also have a tough schedule. Their final nine games include two against Atlanta, plus meetings with Toronto, Portland, Washington, and Chicago.
Oklahoma City Thunder (31-25)
There are fewer teams in the West that are on the bubble. Of the three, Oklahoma City is presently sitting in the eighth and final playoff position. This is a good team, and the two clubs that have a shot at them will need to work extra hard to take over that final playoff position. Although they aren’t the best ball movement team, the Thunder are the best in the NBA at grabbing rebounds and getting second shots.
Phoenix Suns (29-27)
Like so many teams in the West, the Suns can score. They are third in the league in points, averaging 106.0 per game. But they are 28th in points allowed, giving up 105.0 per game. The biggest problem for Phoenix is that they just traded away two of their best players, Goran Dragic to Miami and Isaiah Thomas to Boston.
New Orleans Pelicans (28-27)
New Orleans is a fairly average NBA team, which is not very helpful when a club is eyeing the playoffs. They are 17th in points score, 15th in points allowed, 17th in assists and 11th in rebounding. It was bad news when PF Anthony Davis, their best player, went down with a shoulder injury that will keep him out of the lineup for up to two weeks.
Upcoming Games Starting February 22nd
Next week we will take a look at some key matchups for the bubble teams. These include the Phoenix Suns at the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Dallas Mavericks on March 2, the Boston Celtics at the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 3, and the Charlotte Hornets at the Brooklyn Nets on March 4. Finally, we will consider the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chicago Bulls on March 5. It’s stretch time for the NBA. Get ready for some inspired play!