There’s just a few games remaining for NBA teams and the playoff picture is pretty close to solidified. The Utah Jazz trail the L.A. Lakers for the eighth seed in the West by just half a game, and the Chicago Bulls have just a half game lead over the sixth seeded Atlanta Hawks.
So the matchups could easily change, but realistically the Lakers are going to hold on to that 8th spot while the Hawks/Bulls details aren’t rendered significant enough to ruin this picture.
Let’s examine the Eastern Conference matchups if the playoffs began today, beginning with the No. 1 vs. No. 8 teams, the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.
Miami vs. Milwaukee
Nov 21 113-110 Miami (@MIA)
Dec 29 104-85 Milwaukee (@MIL)
Mar 15 107-94 Miami (@MIL)
Final Meeting: April 9 @ MIA
The Milwaukee Bucks are a decent team, but in the West they wouldn’t be a playoff team. Their strength is their backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The tandem combines to average 36.9 points per game, which accounts for 37 percent of the Bucks offensive output. Ersan Ilysasova hasn’t been able to recapture the brilliance he displayed towards the end of the 2011-12 season, but still averages 13 points and seven rebounds per game.
Sixth man J.J. Redick has seen his numbers fall since joining the Bucks, but he’s playing a role on a playoff team, which presumably can only be a good thing for a guy like J.J. who is used to being in the postseason.
Larry Sanders was my pick for Defensive Player of the Year, and the Bucks have a host of role players like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels and Ekpe Udoh. They are a team with more depth than most realize, but…they can’t give the Miami Heat a series.
The Heat are the best team in the league and could be on the verge of a multiple title run. They have the league’s best all-around player, and King James is just entering his prime. A telling stat released by B/R said that LBJ’s 10 worst games of this season equate to 19 points per game, eight rebounds and five assists. It said “LeBron James worst ten games essentially equate to Scottie Pippen’s good games.”
Throwing in the fact that LBJ is that good, and the Heat also have another top-10 talent in Dwyane Wade, it makes for a tandem that can’t be equalled without two premier perimeter defenders, which the Bucks lack. Chris Bosh is a solid third fiddle and could be a No. 1 option on a .500 team, but on a contending team like Miami Bosh is a third option. The fact that the Heat have three top-25 players concentrated with a bench and supporting cast that is far better than most realize renders them as heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole perfectly fulfill their roles as point guards, while Shane Battier is a three point specialist and lock down defender. Udonis Haslem stretches the court with his mid range jumper and crashes the boards hard, and Mike Miller can get red hot from behind the arc on any given night. That’s not even to mention veterans Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, who bring far more than just experience to the table. The Heat have a cheaper 4-12 salary than Milwaukee’s, and the result is still a stronger cast.
Ekpe Udoh could potentially do an OK job on LeBron James, but Udoh is a complete liability offensively. That’s the problem with the Bucks in general: they just don’t have the fire power to keep up with Erik Spoelstra’s squad. The Bucks could steal a game, but it’s unrealistic to expect anything other than a love fest between James and Wade as they rout the Bucks and celebrate with alley oops for the highlight reels.
Prediction: Heat in 5