What if Noah doesn't get hurt?

Three alternate playoff realities for Clippers, Celtics and Bulls

Updated: May 7, 2012, 12:21 PM ET
By Austin Link | TeamRankings.com
Joakim NoahJesse D. Garrabrant/Getty ImagesThe Bulls' future would be different if Noah had passed instead of driving the lane and getting injured.

The pool of active NBA teams shrank by one last night as the Dallas Mavericks bowed out of the playoffs to a clearly superior Oklahoma City Thunder squad. Three of the favorites -- the Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and Miami Heat -- are dominating in the first round, easily beating inferior opponents on both ends. The same can't be said for other teams locked in battles to open the playoffs.

The easy assumption to make in a best-of-seven series is that the better team always wins. Watching James Harden dismantle the Mavericks' aging defense at times even made seven games seem like overkill. With two evenly matched sides, however, one decision can make a difference not just for one round, but in the playoffs as a whole.

With the TeamRankings.com's projection simulations, we can do scenario analysis, examining how one game going a different way would have affected a team's odds to win its opening series, and all the way through the NBA title. Before we get into this, let's make it clear that yes, we know it's a gross oversimplification to say that entire games were decided by one moment. But so what? It's fun!

Without further ado, here's a "what if" look at three key moments in this year's playoffs so far.