With two weeks left of regular season NBA basketball, here are a collection of assorted season-ending and playoff-related thoughts on the fifteen Eastern Conference teams.
- The Celtics and Nets remain interconnected after the Pierce and Garnett trade. Celtics record through 26 games: 12-14. Next 26 games: 6-20. Last 22 games: 5-17. Nets record through 19 games: 5-14. Next 23 games: 15-8. Last 32 games: 20-12.
- Knicks: If Phil Jackson became the President of the New York Knicks in January rather than mid-March, would the Knicks be fighting for the 5th seed in the East instead of the 8th? Like J.R. Smith himself, the Knicks simply seemed to emerge from their slumber when told they were being guided by a Zen master.
- The Dregs of the East: The combined record of Boston, Orlando, Philadelphia and Milwaukee is 74-226. Against the Western Conference, these four teams have combined to go 17-101. If you add in Detroit’s 6-23 record vs. the West, you get a mark of 23-124.
- Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Giannis Antetokuompo and a healthy Larry Sanders would make quite the lock-down defensive trio. Now…who is going to score?
- Magic: Of Orlando’s 21 wins, 10 have come by 10 points or more. When they win, they win big.
- Sixers: Four of Philadelphia’s 16 wins have come in overtime.
- Cavs: Despite an overall record of 31-45, Cleveland is 7-3 in games decided by 3 points or less. Good at winning close games. Bad in most other scenarios.
- Hawks: record with Al Horford: 16-13. Hawks record without Al Horford: 16-29.
- Nets: Shaun Livingston, who is now healthy and has resurrected his career with the Nets, is the perfect role player. Like Draymond Green in Golden State, Livingston’s versatility and defensive intensity have helped propel Brooklyn into a team that Nobody wants to face in the playoffs. Having the defensive wizards Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko doesn’t hurt either.
- Pistons: Detroit’s roster was not constructed to make any sense. Three above-average rebounding big men and nobody who can guard the perimeter. They may be the best rebounding team among bottom-ten defensive teams in NBA history. I don’t have the time to check on this, but I know this: 2nd in rebounding. 27th in points allowed. Rare.
- Bulls: Thibs, Noah and Butler are undeniable. Team-wide focus and determination has guided them back from the brink, and may in fact lead to home court advantage in round one. Bulls fans should be desperately hoping Chicago eclipses the Raptors for the 3rd seed, so the Bulls get to face Washington instead of the equally tough Nets. Like Livingston and Green, Taj Gibson has become an integral role player for the Bulls. D.J. Augustin may or may not be able maintain this level of sweet-shooting from deep. Without Augustin’s scoring, the Bulls offense may struggle mightily.
- Wizards: Washington’s record in games decided by 3 points or less is 4-9. This does not bode well for their playoff hopes. Nene’s health and the Wizards ability to get out in transition are the two keys for Washington. John Wall in the open floor = Trevor Ariza/Bradley Beal/Martell Webster open looks. Wizards fans deserve at least a 7-game series after what they’ve been through over the decades.
- Bobcats: How can you not be happy for Al Jefferson? The man will finally see the playoff light in Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist remains one of the better individual defenders in the NBA. If only he could also shoot.
- Heat: Miami’s record vs. the Atlantic Division is 8-7. Record vs. the Western Conference: 20-8. Bizarre. The Heat are vulnerable this year. Greg Oden will not get in the way of Roy Hibbert.
- Pacers: The Pacers are exhausted. Their usually slow pace has morphed into a crawl. As a result, they can’t score. The Danny Granger for Evan Turner trade is currently looking like a big mistake. Granger’s range would be helpful when they are stuck in half-court mode.
- Raptors: Put the ball in the hands of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan hands. When Rudy Gay was sent to Sacramento on December 9, the Raptors took off. Kyle Lowry took off. The ascension of DeRozan is tied to Lowry and the Raptors’ pace. The Raptors great chemistry has been well documented this year. One huge benefit of the Gay trade: the Raptors received unselfish players in return. Greivis Vasquez, who could be starting for many teams, might be the best backup PG in the NBA. Lowry’s knee is a huge concern for the Raptors playoff hopes.
The regular season ends on Wednesday, April 16th. The NBA Playoffs start on Saturday, April 19th.