Down The Stretch In The Eastern Conference

With about a quarter of the season left, it’s time to examine who can go the Finals. This is the first time in memory there are eight teams with a chance, and that’s saying Atlanta doesn’t have a chance. It doesn’t look like any series will be easy for any team. Seeding, though important, doesn’t carry the weight it did in other years. This year it’s more about how the teams matchup.

The Best Teams

  • Miami Heat – The Heat are tough to play because they always put maximum effort and teams playing them have to earn everything. They have good veteran leadership in Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler. If they go anywhere it’s going to be to be through Heat basketball, a grind.
  • Milwaukee Bucks – The defending champs. They have been through the battle last year and won, don’t underestimate that. This season the Bucks have been to up and down to be the favorite. Every time you think they are going to turn it up they suffer a tough loss or someone is injured.

Maybe, Maybe Not

  • Philadelphia 76ersJames Harden and Joel Embiid are great players. Who can predict if it will work though. The Sixers don’t have a lot of perimeter shooting something Harden and Embiid need around them.
  • Brooklyn Nets – If healthy, and Kyrie Irving is allowed to play, they become tough to beat. The question mark is how Ben Simmons can fit in and what happens when he is fouled in a tight game. If he passes the test and they stay healthy the Nets become the favorite

A Notch Below But With Some Luck could Pull It Off

  • Chicago Bulls – Their problem is injuries. Will Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso come back and be a force and will Zach LaVine‘s knee hold up. They need Caruso because without him Chicago’s defense isn’t championship level.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – Young and talented. Their only question is the obvious, how far can a young team not used to the playoffs go. First time playoff teams usually struggle.
  • Toronto Raptors – Another tough team you don’t want to meet in the playoffs. Nick Nurse always has them ready. Their problem is lack of depth. Will over using their core players in the regular season wear them down.
  • Boston Celtics – They are playing well now. Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown are beginning to get it and should continue to get better. They seem a year and a player away from going far. They still are dangerous because of their defense and like Toronto a team you don’t want to play.

On The Outside Looking In

  • Atlanta Hawks – Still dangerous after last year but this year seem stuck. They play well for a stretch and then struggle for a few games. They have plenty of offense but need more defensive players to go with De’Andre Hunter. Atlanta’s team on paper looks good but games aren’t played on paper.
  • Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets are probably the most entertaining team in the league to watch because of their style of play. They have had problems keeping everybody healthy. They seem destined to lose in the playoff game.

Down And Almost Out

  • New York Knicks – They have a tough remaining schedule but their inconsistencies make them doubtful for the play in game.
  • Washington Wizards – Highly doubtful, Beal’s out and they don’t look like they enjoy playing together.

Always Next Year

Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons

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