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2012 NBA Playoffs Forecast

Will Robinson |
April 17, 2012 | 12:36 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor

Brandon Jennings and his Bucks can sneak into the playoffs (Creative Commons/Keith Allison).
Brandon Jennings and his Bucks can sneak into the playoffs (Creative Commons/Keith Allison).
Today is the 11-day mark until the NBA playoffs, which will cap a glorious weekend of NFL Draft goodness with exciting first-round action.

While the East playoff teams are pretty much set in stone, the order is quite volatile. Alternatively, out West, two teams can drop in and out with relative ease as well as the last four seeds separated by three-and-a-half games.

So what are the chances Team A will drop out and Team X will sneak in to claim a playoff spot? Find out below:


Eastern Conference

New York Knicks

Current record: 31-29

Current seed: 7th

Games to clinch: 5

Season summary: The Knicks have had a very interesting season. First, they started horrendously, removing any hope from an expected promising season. And then, the shining light that was Jeremy Lin came from obscurity that was Mike D’Antoni’s negligence (D'Antonio allegedly didn't know Lin's name until he played well) and rejuvenated the team during Carmelo Anthony’s injury. Then some drama came in when their best player (Anthony) started to cut into the team’s most popular player’s (Lin) game was affected. And D’Antoni had no idea what he was doing. The team went back into its slump. So D’Antoni resigned last month, having former-Hawks coach and iso-offense master Mike Woodson take over. Since Woodson became the man-in-charge, the team has been on the up-and-up, sans Lin.

Will they make the playoffs: Yes, just barely. They will remain as the 7th seed. They’re playing inspired ball without Amar’e Stoudemire’s corpse. Their last four losses have been against Miami, Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta -- all playoff-bound teams. Though they have an average remaining schedule (Boston, Soon-To-Be-Brooklyn, Cleveland, Atlanta, LAC and Charlotte), they team below them will keep them in. And that team is the…


Philadelphia 76ers

Current record: 31-29

Current seed: 8th

Games to clinch: 5

Season summary: Philly’s season trajectory is nearly the exact opposite of New York’s. Its season began with a bang, jumping out to a 20-9 record. Doug Collins’ young, deep team played spectacular defense and unselfish offense to become a surprise team in the season’s first half. But then it fell apart. The team endured losing streaks of five, three and four games. And today, they play the Pacers. So that could be another three-game skid by tonight

Will they make the playoffs: No. Philly will choke this away for a couple reasons. For starters, as previously mentioned, they’ve been terrible recently. Next up, four of their last six games are away. And they have two more against a very strong Indiana team. If that weren’t enough, they play the team below them in the standings, which will make a move and steal their playoff spot.


Milwaukee Bucks

Current record: 29-31

Games from playoff qualification: 2

Season summary: The Bucks started as a mediocre team being carried by Brandon Jennings one-man team style. He stuffed the stat sheet every night. This season will be remembered as the one when they traded top-five center Andrew Bogut -- who was, and still is, injured -- for scoring machine Monta Ellis in the middle of a winning streak. Since the deal, the team is 10-7. Ersan Ilyasova vacuums the glass for rebounds every night. They have a chance to sneak into the playoffs

Will they make the playoffs: And they will! They have a slightly easier schedule than the Sixers, with three home games. The April 25 tilt against Philadelphia can decide which team will be the 8th seed. It should be an exciting week-and-a-half to send the season.


Western Conference

Denver Nuggets

Current record: 34-27

Current seed: 6th

Games to clinch: 4

Season summary: The first full year with no Carmelo Anthony kicked off for the Nuggets in December 2011, who decided they would be the league’s highest scoring team. Naturally, they allow the second-most points per game, but they score the most so it’s OK! Kenneth Faried AKA “The Manimal” -- AKA the guy who nicknamed himself “The Manimal” -- has been one of 2012’s best rookies, averaging over seven boards per game and shooting 58 percent in about 20 minutes per contest. Ty Lawson started the season red-hot but simmered down throughout the year. Now, they’re a team who has a modicum chance to sit out the playoffs, sitting as the West’s 6th seed.

Will they make the playoffs: But never fear, Rocky Mountains! The Nuggets will represent in late April and early May. It probably won’t curb the Peyton Manning hype, but it may detract from the Rockies’ average start.


Nowitzki and the reigning NBA Champs have had an inconsistent season during their title-defense (Creative Commons/Keith Allison).
Nowitzki and the reigning NBA Champs have had an inconsistent season during their title-defense (Creative Commons/Keith Allison).
Dallas Mavericks

Current record: 34-28

Current seed: 7th

Games to clinch: 4 

Season summary: The reigning NBA Champs stumbled out of the gate in the first week, winning one game of their first five. Dirk Nowitzki was “late 2000s Rasheed Wallace” out of shape in December but is back in MVP form (Dirk dropped 40 points last night on 26 shots in triple overtime). Their team still has some depth but not as much as last year’s squad. 

Will they make the playoffs: It will be very close, but the Mavs will stay in. The only game they will likely lose is against Chicago. They’ve only lost to good teams since early March, so it’s unlikely Dallas will drop a gimme against Golden State or Houston (not an easy team, but the Mavs have beaten them twice). Although, if a team were to drop out, it would be this one.


Phoenix Suns

Current record: 32-29

Current seed: 8th

Games to clinch: 6

Season summary: Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns are en fuego (womp womp). Since the All-Star Break, the fireballs are 17-9 and sitting in the 8th seed. Nash and head coach Alvin Gentry lead a very scrappy and average squad. It’s mind-blowing how this team is in playoff contention. Any team in 2012 with Michael Redd playing significant minutes shouldn’t be here.

Will they make the playoffs: Though it will be tough, the Suns will continue their stretch of great basketball and make the postseason. Sorry to the rest of the Western Conference, but the playoff teams are essentially set. However, a pair of teams could finagle their way in.


Kyle Lowry has been one of the pleasant surprises in this NBA season (Creative Commons/pjwoohoo).
Kyle Lowry has been one of the pleasant surprises in this NBA season (Creative Commons/pjwoohoo).
Houston Rockets

Current record: 32-29

Games from playoff qualification: 1

Season summary: Houston has been more up-and-down than any other team vying for a playoff spot. It started terribly, trying to acquire Pau Gasol and being shut down, followed by a slow start. And then they owned January. But since then, the Rockets have been very up and down, most recently trading a four-game win streak for their current four-game losing streak. Kyle Lowry has been a revelation, becoming one of the better second-tier point guards in the league. And when he got hurt, Goran Dragić stepped in and went off. Luis Scola is a skilled big. But it remains to be seen how the team will fair in a seven-game series without Kevin Martin, if they even get there. They have a dangerous team, but the Rockets will most likely miss the playoffs…

How they can make the playoffs: …unless they can tear up their last five games. Tomorrow’s match against Dallas is a must-win to keep their playoff dreams alive. It’s definitely plausible for them to steal the 8th seed -- three of their final five games are against New Orleans (two) and Golden State. The only game they can afford to drop is against Miami, but doing so would increase the level of difficulty.


Utah Jazz

Current record: 32-30

Games from playoff qualification: 1.5

Season summary: Akin to Denver moving on from Carmelo, the Jazz entered their first season without head coach Jerry Sloan since David Stern still had some black in his hair. Plus, in February 2011, they dished star point guard Deron Williams for a slew of assets to Soon-To-Be-Brooklyn. The Jazz played well early behind Al Jefferson’s usual post-game production and Paul Millsap’s refined game. But such is the story with the lower-end playoff teams, they dipped below .500 in the middle of the season before rebounding in March. That mid-season stretch may have killed them for May ball, but the Jazz aren’t out yet.

How they can make the playoffs: Without a doubt, the Jazz have to finish strongly. Two games with the scrappy Portland Trailblazers and the free-falling Orlando Magic could push them into playoff contention. But no matter, next Tuesday’s visit from Phoenix will be the key to the promised land. The Jazz notched a key win, beating Dallas in triple-overtime last night. But it still has to get up for, at least, four more contests this month. Or else they’ll be waiting to see their card pulled first for the Draft Lottery.

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