The playoff match-ups weren’t fully realized until the final day of the NBA regular season yesterday. For the most part the West’s playoff picture was settled — the Eastern Conference was still dancing around until the eleventh hour. But as the last games ended last night, the picture became clear for the seedings for the 2016-17 NBA Playoffs.
And now that we know which teams are playing one another, the NBA playoff bracket is also set in stone. You can see NBA.com’s updated and finalized playoff bracket on their site, or you can print it out by downloading ours.
The Eastern Conference was crazy the last few days as it took Boston to more often than not and the Cavaliers with some questionable moves. First the Cavs losts two games they should have never lost to the Atlanta Hawks. The first game in which they played without their core players and the second game; they gave up a 26 point lead in the fourth quarter. The Cavs also decided to rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in their final game.
Thus, the Celtics secured the East’s top seed with a 53-29 record overtaking the Cavs, whom had a 51-31 record. They’ll play the Chicago Bulls in the first round. That’s because despite a huge turnaround, the Miami Heat needed just one more big Dion Waiters game-winner. Instead they tied with the Chicago Bulls at 41-41 for the eighth and final spot which left them on the outside for this year’s playoffs as they lost the season series to the Bulls.
The Western Conference was less dramatic. Outside of come interesting back and forth between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers in the last several games, the Western playoff window closed pretty early on. First, the Blazers defeated the Nuggets in their final meeting at the end of March. This game also was the first meeting between two principle benefactors of a trade that happened a few weeks before — big men Nikola Jokic and Jusef Nurkic. Nurkic went off for a career high 33 points as well as 16 rebounds in the win and sent a couple stinging messages at his former team, too.
Then came the salt in the wound and twisted dagger that came in the form of a 40-foot buzzer beating three from Russell Westbrook that all but eliminated the Nuggets from contention. Ouch.
At the top of the West are the perennial powers in the Golden State Warriors, whom just got Kevin Durant back from injury and a Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich-led San Antonio Spurs team that’s always ready and primed for playoffs.
The NBA Playoffs Start This Saturday
There’s not a lot of time to relax — the NBA playoffs have a couple days to rest before the games start on Saturday, April 15 according to NBA.com’s official playoff schedule. So get those playoff brackets printed and filled out before the first game between the Indiana Pacers (#7) takes on the #2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers at 3:30 PM EST. That game is followed by Milwaukee Bucks (#6) and Toronto Raptors (#3), then Memphis Grizzlies (#7) vs. San Antonio Spurs (#2) and finally the Utah Jazz (#5) taking on the L.A. Clippers (#4).
The Playoffs will continue every week until the NBA Finals start. The championship’s first game is scheduled for June 1st, 2017. Download and print out your 2017 NBA Playoff Bracket in PDF here.
Teams Have to Get Through Their Side of the Bracket: Cleveland has a much tougher road this season. They’re going the wrong direction as the season closed, but let’s never underestimate LeBron, okay? Golden State Warriors has revenge in their sights. Don’t be fooled by Stephen Curry‘s kid-like looks, celebrations and antics; like Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, their smiles underscored a burning desire to win and destroy. But the Cavs and Warriors first have to get past the Celtics and Spurs first — and no team wants to have to go through either. And it’s just not championships at stake. These playoffs are a make or break for a few teams, too.
Make or Breaks: The Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies have been serious teams in the playoff picture for last several years — so that begs the question: How much longer will they keep their players together if they don’t have a breakthrough this year? Under the microscope is the triad of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — is this a threesome that can lead their Los Angeles team to the promised land this season? Look for that team to get blown up if they don’t make it deep into the Western Conference Finals. Same goes for the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — the core three give it their all, but there comes a time when it’s time to say “when” and pull the trigger.
It’s not nearly as dire for Demar Derozan, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors in Toronto. They’ve made a couple serious runs in the regular season, but even if they don’t get to the Conference final this season it feels as if they have a little more time under their belt to get it together.
It’s been a terrible season for Paul George and the Indiana Pacers. Some might consider their making the playoffs as a success. And it might elicit a little smile and slap on the back, but don’t think that the higher-ups aren’t thinking to themselves: “Can Paul George lead us?” My leaning is yes, but the Pacers will Myles Turner to develop and a lot more help.