LeBron James and Cavs on course for Miami Heat playoff clash

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No team has more than nine games left on their regular season schedule as the NBA winds slowly towards the playoffs, and the battle for some of the few remaining places in the postseason is intensifying.

Without doubt the tussle to claim the Eastern Conference’s number eight seed is where the most drama is, as four teams have strong claims on the position and a fifth hold an outside chance of a late, clinching rally.

Whoever winds up nabbing it will have to face the Conference-champions-in-waiting Atlanta Hawks, which will likely end up in a first-round exit, making the whole scramble really rather pointless.

Nonetheless, the Miami Heat, currently in seventh spot, the Brooklyn Nets in eighth and the chasing Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are all separated by just two games in the loss column, while the Charlotte Hornets are still clinging to the coattails at present.

Of the quintet the better story would be seeing the Heat, 100/1 to win the Championship, land in seventh. That would put them in a playoff series against former favourite LeBron James and his 11/4 championship favourites, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Miami leads the regular season head-to-heads 2-1 with one game left to play.

Indiana would be a romantic fit for the eighth seed. They have been without their All-Star Paul George all season as he recovers from a horrific leg injury suffered in the offseason, but the guard is well on the road to recovery. George has hinted at a return to the court should the Pacers extend their season and his reappearance would make them a dangerous banana skin.

In the Western Conference things are looking more certain. Bar a monumental dropping of balls from the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, these three huge franchises should close out their positions as respective sixth, seventh and eighth seeds in the coming weeks.

Should that be the case, it would leave juicy matchups all over the place in the West’s postseason. The Golden State Warriors are 13/8 favourites to win the West, but would have to overcome the one-man show that is Russell Westbrook for the Thunder in the first round.

A successful series against one of the most dominant players in the league at the moment would certainly underline the Warriors’ chances to win the title, currently priced as a 3/1 shot with Ladbrokes.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.