Playoff seedings: The West is still a mess

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In these uncertain times, we know a couple things for sure.

We know Chicago will win the Eastern Conference and take on the Indiana Pacers in the first round. We know Orlando will host Atlanta in another first-round matchup. We know the Spurs are the top team in the West.

After that, we’ve got no idea. Well, we kind of know some things in the East, the West is still as confused as Lindsay Lohan. So we’ll start our breakdown out East.

Eastern Conference

We told you already it’s Chicago vs. Indiana and Orlando vs. Atlanta for sure. The other two matchups are almost set in the East, but with the way teams in this conference go on losing streaks nothing is certain.

Miami’s win over Boston on Sunday means the Heat control their own destiny — win out on the road at Atlanta and Toronto and they are the No. 2 seed. At 56-24, they are one game up on the 55-25 Celtics. However, Boston owns the tiebreaker, so if the Heat slip and the Celtics sweep the Wizards and the Knicks, then Boston slides into the No. 2 seed.

Who might they face? The Knicks are one game up on the 76ers for the No. 6 seed, a lead they kept with their dramatic win Sunday night. New York also owns the tiebreaker. So, the only way the Sixers pass the Knicks is for New York to lose out — possible against Chicago and Boston — and Philly to win out (Orlando and Detroit).

Basically, expect Boston vs. New York and Miami vs. Philadelphia to be the other two Eastern Conference series, but it’s not set in stone yet.

Western Conference

We know the Spurs are the top seed. We know little else.

After dropping five straight, the Lakers have fallen into a tie with Mavericks for the No. 2 seed at 55-25, but the Lakers hold the tiebreaker. Oklahoma City, after beating L.A. on Sunday, is just one game back (54-26). The Lakers still own the tiebreaker over the Thunder, but the Thunder own the tiebreaker over the Mavericks. So, any of these teams can finish two-to-four.

The Lakers finish with the Spurs, then Kings; Dallas finishes with Houston, then New Orleans; the Thunder finish with the Kings, then Bucks.

The bottom half of the West is just as messy. The issue here is most teams are doing everything they can to avoid the Lakers, and if they can swing a date with Dallas they’ll take it.

Denver should be the No. 5 seed, they are two games clear of everyone, so just one more win (over Golden State or Utah) and they are locked in at the five.

Portland (47-33) is currently sixth and one-game ahead of Memphis and New Orleans, who are tied for seventh at 46-34. The real test here is the Tuesday night game between Memphis and Portland, a game that will go a long way toward deciding who finishes where. The tiebreak options between the three teams are too numerous to explain, but if the standings finish like this the Hornets would have the tiebreaker on Memphis. New Orleans has the tiebreaker if all three teams finished tied as well.

So there you go. By the end of Monday we may have a few more clear matchups set. Maybe.

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.