It’s been a wild and wacky year in the NBA. The last three NBA Finals have consisted of the same two teams but there’s a good chance at least one of those teams won’t make it to this year’s finals. The Golden State Warriors have run into some stout competition in the Western Conference. The Houston Rockets are fresh off a 17-game winning streak that has catapulted them into sole possession of first place and they don’t appear to be slowing down.
The rest of the Western Conference seems to be a step below the top two teams but there’s some real jockeying for playoff position as 3rd through 10th are only separated by four games. The Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz are currently on the outside looking in, but if anyone ahead of them slips up even a little bit they could make a move and end up securing themselves a playoff spot.
By Erik Drost - Kyrie Irving, CC BY 2.0
Things in the Eastern Conference have really shaken up. The shift started last off-season when the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers traded away Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas and future draft picks. Irving is arguably the best PG in the conference and one of the top 5-10 players in the league period. The trade didn’t work out so well for Cleveland as they currently sit third in the standings well behind the top two teams, Boston and Toronto, and only one game ahead of the 5th place Wizards. If they were to fall to the 5th seed, it would leave them without home court advantage in the first round and extremely vulnerable to getting knocked out early on.
The Celtics, on the other hand, have flourished since the Irving trade despite losing their other big offseason acquisition, Gordon Hayward, just minutes into the season to a broken ankle. To everyone’s surprise though it’s the Toronto Raptors who are currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference by 2.5 games over Boston. They can thank their league best 28-5 home record for that accomplishment. There are still plenty of games left to be played, however, and the Raptors have two more match-ups with the Celtics that will likely determine who secures the top spot in the East and who gets the coveted home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference.
The other playoff teams in the east are pretty much set as the 8th seed Bucks hold a five game lead over the 9th place Pistons with only 16 games left to play. Currently the 6th seed 76ers, 7th seed Heat, and 8th seed Bucks are all only separated by one game so it will be interesting to see how things shakeout and who they will be matched up against in the first round.
Stay tuned as there is still plenty of NBA action to catch before the playoff match-ups are set and the quest to crown the 2018 NBA champions begins.
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