Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Tell us which 6, 7 or 8 seed, as they stand now, is most primed for an upset. And why?
Steve Aschburner: Scanning all the likely lower-seeded teams, my conclusion is: In Thibs I trust. If the Chicago Bulls draw anyone but Miami or Indiana in the East, my hunch is they can advance even without Derrick Rose available. One of the Bulls’ biggest problems this season has been letdowns against dubious opponents. Another has been lapses in concentration due to schedule turnarounds. Neither of those will be present in the postseason. Assuming Chicago doesn’t suffer anything as traumatic as Rose’s injury last spring and Joakim Noah‘s subsequent ankle sprain that doomed it against Philadelphia, I think coach Tom Thibodeau‘s ability to lock in and game-plan defensively will thwart the higher-seeded Knicks, Nets or Hawks.
Fran Blinebury: I don’t know that any of them are actually “primed” for an upset. But if I had to pick one team — as the standings are today — I’d go with the Celtics, simply because you can’t count out the veteran know-how and determination of players such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Of course, the same would apply to the Lakers if they squeeze past Utah for No. 8 in the West. A team with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash is not the kind of reward either the Spurs or Thunder would be happy to get for finishing first in the West.
Jeff Caplan: In the question about the Pacers and Knicks, I’ve already suggested that a 3-6 Knicks-Bulls matchup could provide an upset. In the West, how can anyone not think that the Rockets in a potential 2-7 matchup with San Antonio couldn’t make that very interesting? The Spurs might not have Manu Ginobili against the high-scoring Rockets and that’s a huge blow. Obviously the edge goes to the Spurs, but for potential upsets I like it. I don’t think the Rockets could take down the Thunder in another potential 2-7 series, but it sure would be a fascinating series with James Harden against his old mates. I also don’t think the Warriors, if they face Denver in a 3-6 matchup, have enough to get past the Nuggets, although the Ty Lawson injury factor is significant.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Bulls. What a brutal draw for the supposed favorite in a 3-6 first-round series. The Bulls aren’t far from being a No. 3 themselves, and that defense, rebounding, toughness and coaching makes them a tough out. The Heat would definitely be favored against Chicago. Anyone else in the East and there are small margins.
John Schuhmann: Chicago. Of any potential 6/7/8 seed, the Bulls have the best defense and the best road record. They’ve proven to be resilient in the face of several key injuries and are also 5-1 against New York (3-0) and Brooklyn (2-1), having held those two potent offenses under a point per possession over the six games. The Celtics’ chances of pulling off an upset obviously depend on Kevin Garnett’s health and their ability to avoid the 8 seed. If they face the Knicks with KG ready to go, I think they have a decent shot to get to the next round. But in the West, I just don’t think any 6/7/8 seed is good enough defensively to pose much of a threat to San Antonio, Oklahoma City or Denver/Memphis.
Sekou Smith: If by “primed for an upset” you mean poised to ruin the postseason for a top seed, I’m going with Chicago in the East and Golden State in the West. The Bulls, as they showed in stopping the Miami Heat’s win streak at 27 games, can crank their game up to another level than what we’ve seen from them on a consistent basis during the regular season. Even without Derrick Rose they are a dangerous group in a playoff setting. The Warriors are the ideal playoff wild card with their streaky 3-point shooting abilities. That said, if the Los Angeles Lakers make the playoff field, they could turn the postseason upside down in a first round matchup against either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are playing at a high level right now and if they get in, they’re going to be a major problem in the playoffs.