April 09, 2014

5 Biggest Questions for the NBA's Final Week

The last week of the NBA season is officially here. From now until next Wednesday, the Association will be in the homestretch of its regular season. It's one of the most exciting times of the year for basketball fans, as every game starts to mean more. This time of the year is full of questions that will finally be answered, and here are the top five of those for the NBA's last week of regular season games:
1. Who will win the home court advantage battles for the East's 1 seed and the West 2 seed?
These three matchups all have teams who've already locked up a playoff spot fighting for home court in potential series. The difference is that in the West, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin are showing off MVP caliber skills, while in the East, one of the teams (hint: it's not the Heat) are revealing Stanley from The Office caliber skills.
Somehow, some way, the Pacers head into Wednesday night's games only a half game back of Miami, which is incredible given Indiana's meltdown recently, and kind of speaks to how little the Heat care about the regular season. I'm banking on Thunder-Clippers to deliver some more, uh, positive moments. As far as predictions go, I've already kind of covered who I like for the East number 1 spot,  while I think the Clippers' current 1.5 game deficit will do them in.
Prediction: Heat #1 in East, Thunder #2 in West

2. Who will "win" the race to the bottom and tank their way to the best lottery odds?
I wrote a monthly column this season called the "Tanking Rankings", so you know I'm excited for teams to trot out their worst lineups in a final push for better lottery odds (or to regain a protected pick). The race for the top spot is really between two teams: the #29 Philly 76ers, who somehow lost 26 games straight and still couldn't get the bottom/top spot, and the #30 Milwaukee Bucks, who somehow have a comfortable three game "lead" that I can't see them giving up.
Prediction: Bucks

3. Will Kevin Durant take control of the MVP race?
For the last few months, we've been saying that although LeBron is still the league's best player, this is KD's year to break out and take the MVP trophy. Back in January, it seemed like Durant had already won the award, but LeBron surged back in to the discussion with a strong push for the award. However, many would argue that with his 41-game streak of 25 point games (which ended on Tuesday), Durant has already locked up the trophy. Still, one more big performance by him to lock up the Thunder's number two spot in the West would seal the deal.

4. How will the West 6-8 seeds shake out?
The Spurs are clearly going to win the West, unless some crazy scenario happens. The Thunder and Clippers are separated enough from the pack to become a second tier, and the Rockets and Blazers have clinched the playoffs, making them level 3. But the 6-9 spots are all separated by just three games in the standings. You've got the Suns, the young upstarts that just won't go away, the Mavericks, the team led by a rejuvenated Dirk and a resurrected Monta Ellis, the Grizzlies, the team that all the experts say "nobody wants to play", and the Warriors, last year's dark horse that is truly the team nobody wants to play. One of these teams is going to miss the playoffs, and it's a real tragedy that that's the case, but it's going to make for an exciting last week of the season. To me, this is the most exciting race out there.
Prediction: 6. Warriors 7. Mavericks 8. Suns 9. Grizzlies

5. Who will back into the East's 8 seed?
The most depressing story of the next week. Atlanta has done everything short of openly admitting they'd rather have a lottery pick than get swept by the Heat in Round 1. The Cavaliers might be too far out now to get the wins they need to get back in the race, considering how much trouble they've had winning. The Knicks are legitimately trying to get this spot since they don't even have their own
draft pick and yet they haven't been able to do it. Really tells you something about the make up of   that team. At this point does it even matter who gets this spot?
Prediction: Hawks
Follow John Lava on twitter @JGBHoops!

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