With the regular season drawing to a close, one word is on the mind of everyone—playoffs. Every match it seems has some sort of playoff implication, as the good try and sort themselves out from the bad and the downright ugly. However, as great and spectacular and enthralling as the NBA Playoffs often are, there can only be one Championship winner, meaning that throughout every round somebody has to go home. For the first round, eight teams will have their dreams cut short and sent packing—here's five of those teams guaranteed for a first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs for 2012.
1. HOUSTON ROCKETSCurrent position: 7th place, Western Conference The Rockets are one of those teams that you simply don't want to be in the NBA Playoffs because they'll face a likely first-round matchup against the Conference leaders in the San Antonio Spurs or the explosive Oklahoma City Thunder—both of whom have impressive records at home this season. The Rockets are 20-9 at home this year, but are also 12-17 on the road and don't possess enough firepower to take down either of these sides in a best-of-seven game series.
2. DENVER NUGGETSCurrent position: 8th place, Western Conference The Denver Nuggets are making small progress to the playoffs, winning their last two and six of their last ten, but are almost guaranteed a first-round exit here. Whilst they do have the inside play to match it with the Thunder and the Spurs, their defense simply isn't good enough to stop the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Their road record isn't too bad at 0.500 percent for the season, but they rank in the bottom five in the Conference for home games lost this season and the big teams should have no trouble toppling the Nuggets at home. Photo Credit: www.560wgan.com
3. ORLANDO MAGICCurrent position: 6th place, Eastern Conference The Orlando Magic saga that was the 2011-12 season will end in the opening round of the playoffs, regardless of whatever Dwight Howard may do. The Magic could play anyone in the opening round really, but will likely come up against the Boston Celtics or Indiana Pacers—both of whom possess the talent at either end of the court to stop the Magic. The Celtics, despite their recent loss to the Raptors, have chalked up big wins against the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat in recent weeks and look set to be a dominant force in the NBA Playoffs this year. Similarly to the Pacers, the C's have the ability to shut down teams with both their offense and their defense, and should be too much for the temperamental Magic who were exposed in their recent home drubbing by the Atlanta Hawks.
4. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIESCurrent position: 5th place, Western Conference Memphis have been one of the form sides in the NBA of recent weeks, with several big-name scalps to their growing list of wins. However, they do find themselves in a tough position in the NBA Playoffs—likely to play either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. And either way, it doesn't look crash hot for the Grizzlies. The Lakers will remember their playoff disappointment as they were flogged by Dallas last year, and will make sure that they don't allow a similar process to occur again this year. On the other hand, the Clippers showed they are the real deal with their win over the Thunder, and with the home-court advantage, will highlight that class with a convincing first-round series win.
5. PHILADELPHIA 76ERSCurrent position: 7th place, Eastern Conference After starting the season so strong, there is perhaps no other team in the league with a worse form decline than the Sixers, who have slumped down to 7th in the conference. They've surrendered the divisional lead to the Boston Celtics and are no longer the tough defensive presence that they once posed at the start of the season. If they stay in 7th, they'll also face the Miami Heat who will be more than ready to justify themselves as genuine championship contenders with a strong start to the playoffs. Despite their recent losses at home, the Heat still hold one of the most formidable home records in the league and will be far too strong for Philly in this one.
So there you have it—five teams most likely to bomb out in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. See your team there? Think something might be amiss? Feel free to drop us a line below or on Twitter!