The last month of the season is upon us, and the Eastern Conference playoffs look to be falling into place. Teams 1-6 right now have actually clinched a playoff berth. Miami is leading the way, and took care of the Conference by clinching that up thanks in part to their 27 game winning streak. But it’s 2-8, where things are a bit muddled. The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks have been swapping spots 2 and 3 over the past few games. Until one team separates themselves, this might come down to the last game of the season. Brooklyn is right there in fourth place, but could see Chicago and Atlanta in the rear view mirror. Both those teams could cause some problems for whoever they would end up facing in the playoffs. Boston is still such a veteran team that if I’m the Indiana Pacers, I wouldn’t want to face them in the first round. Then, there’s Milwaukee who’s trying to keep the eighth spot. But would they want that eighth spot only to get run out by the Miami Heat? If the Heat don’t end up sweeping whoever faces them in that first round, you’ll probably hear that the Heat are doomed. Let’s take a look at how each team is sitting right now.
|1||z – Miami |
The Heat have already wrapped up the Eastern Conference,
and anything less than a run to at least the Conference Finals would probably be a disappointment for them.
They can probably put it on cruise control til the playoffs. But once there, they will have it in full gear,
and teams need to be ready for that.
|2||x – New York |
I thought the Knicks would slip away, but here they are ahead of the Pacers by small percentage points.
This is an intriguing spot to be in as whoever gets this second seed has home court advantage. The Knicks
love the feel of MSG, so I imagine they want to do everything they can to seal up the second spot.
|46||26||.639||11 ½||27-10||19-16||10-6||30-13||99.4||95.7||+3.8||Won 8||8-2|
|3||x – Indiana |
The Pacers are on pace to clinch up the division in a few games. They have a great shot this week to take care of
it with three straight wins. I would think they want to do that instead of seeing if the Chicago Bulls end up losing.
The magic number is three, and tonight’s game against the Clippers could help get that down to 2.
|47||27||.635||11 ½||29-8||18-19||12-3||30-16||94.9||89.7||+5.2||Won 4||7-3|
|4||x – Brooklyn |
I am still not sold on the Nets as a dangerous team. I don’t know if they have the tools for a playoff run. They could
get out of the first round, but at this point, they’re probably playing the Heat after that. Do they have anything to
stay in a series against the Heat?
|5||x – Chicago |
The Bulls end up stopping the Heat’s impressive streak, and they showed they’re a team to contend with come playoff
time. But without Derrick Rose, do they have enough scoring punch to do something? Their defense will have to be
outstanding each playoff game if they really want to go somewhere.
|40||32||.556||17 ½||21-16||19-16||9-6||29-13||93.0||92.5||+0.5||Won 1||5-5|
|6||x – Atlanta |
I would put the Hawks in that category of the Nets, where I don’t know what to expect from them. As a Pacers fan, I know
they’ve handled us from time to time. But can they contend with the Knicks and Heat? Probably not. Josh Smith is an offensive
weapon, but the defense is what can carry a team to a championship.
|41||33||.554||17 ½||23-13||18-20||11-5||26-19||97.8||97.2||+0.6||Won 1||6-4|
I think the Celtics are dangerous as long as Kevin Garnett is out there. Any time would love to have that intensity and leadership
out on the floor. Just think if Rajon Rondo was healthy to play, this would be a scary team to play in the playoffs. But they probably
won’t end up going too far with the way they are now. I don’t think the Pacers or Knicks won’t to play them in the first round.
Nothing to fear about the Bucks here. Sure they got Larry Sanders, who can be a defensive presence. But there’s not much else happening
here and they end up winning the eighth seed by default because the East is that bad. At least the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is
|35||37||.486||22 ½||19-18||16-19||7-9||22-23||98.8||100.4||-1.5||Lost 1||3-7|