Miami Heat: The Heat are 24-6 their last 30 games and now have the 8th seed in the East. Erik Spoelstra has put in a Coach of the Year campaign but can the Heat keep their spot? It depends on how they shoot the three ball. That has determined winning or losing. Against Portland they shot 29% and lost. Against the Pacers they shot 28% and lost. Against Orlando they shot 28% and lost. The pattern is set. Keep making threes, winning will be in their grasp. But legs do get tired at the end of the season.
The Schedule: They have 11 games left, 6 on the road, 7 against current playoff teams including the Celtics, the Raptors twice, the Wizards and the Cavaliers, all teams fighting for playoff positioning so no games to take lightly. They have two sets of back-to-back games. If the Heat make the playoffs they will have earned it.
Portland Trailblazers: The Blazers struggled mid-season because Damian Lillard struggled. He looks healthy and back to being Dame. He is making shots, taking names and generally obliterating his opponent. Since March 11th he has dropped 33 points, 39 points, 29 points, 36 points, 27 points, 49 points and 31 points against the Bucks. The Blazers are 5-3 in those games. Currently they are on the outside looking in but only 1.5 games behind the Nuggets.
The Schedule: They have 12 games left but only 3 on the road and 5 against teams currently in the playoffs including Denver who they are chasing, Houston and San Antonio. The Denver game is next week part of a three game home stand. The Blazers also play the Lakers twice, the Timberwolves, the Suns and Fan Appreciation night is against the Pelicans. Will that be the Blazers last home game of the year? The schedule is in their favor for a playoff push.
Atlanta Hawks. : Can the Hawks maintain their 5th spot in the East? They are one game out of the 6th spot and 3.5 games out the playoffs altogether. If you can figure the Hawks out you may also be able to solve the healthcare crises. They are hot and then they are cold. Against the Wizards they were strong until they folded in the 4th facing John Wall’s speed and Bradley Beal’s sharp shooting. They have lost 5 in a row and 8 of the last 11. Not peaking at the right time is an understatement.
The Schedule: They have 11 games left, 6 on the road, 5 against teams currently in the playoffs include two against the Cavs and one against the Celtics. Their four sets of back-to-backs yet to come plus their March swoon and Paul Millsap’s injury may just knock whatever slim hopes they have of staying in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have passed the point of boredom and apathy. They rarely look interested and their is something about them that feels old and tired, like they belong to a different generation. Chris Paul is great but if perception is reality, then he is pulling a train that is going to crash pretty soon. Rumors about Doc bolting have been squashed except when you consider that where their is heat there is fire.
The Schedule: They have 10 games remaining, 3 on the road, 4 against teams currently in the playoffs including the Spurs and Rockets. Only 2 back-to-backs are good for an older team and the semi-soft schedule, They play the Lakers and Suns and Kings twice. It should keep them in 5th or 6th position and away from the Warriors and Spurs in the first round. But they can’t beat the Rockets either so it looks like advancing to the second round is fantasy land.
Utah Jazz: Utah will make the playoffs but will they get home court? They are 1 game ahead of the Clippers and just 2.5 games out of the 6th seed. It’s been a great year for the Jazz but they still struggle on the offensive end so a two week slump may have them going backwards.
The Schedule: They have 10 games remaining, 5 on the road, 5 against teams currently in the playoffs including the Warriors and Spurs at the end of the season. The Warriors and Spurs are both trying to get the top seed so neither will rest all of their players at season’s end if the one seed is up for grabs, bad news for the Jazz. They don’t match up well against either team. They have one back-to-back, a tough one, flying from Minnesota to Portland. If they don’t keep their 4th spot, they will probably only drop to 5th. Whether they are 4th or 5th, the season has been a winner for the Jazz.
photo via llananba