Category Archives: Eastern Conference

NBA: 2018 Playoff preview and prediction

It’s that time of year again: playoff time. That means it’s time to take a look at each series match-up and preview/predict what I expect to see from each teams.


Image result for eastern conference


Eastern Conference:
After an exciting finish to the regular season, the 76ers came out of no where and clinched the 3-seed after finishing the regular season on an impressive 16-game win streak. The Raptors and Celtics clinched the top two seeds last week, but the rest of the field wasn’t confirmed until the last few games this week.

  1. Raptors vs. 8. WizardsImage result for raptors vs wizards
    –It happened in college hoops, and it could happen in the NBA. The biggest possible upset in the Eastern Conference playoffs could be the Wizards coming out and beating the Raptors. As sneaky good as the Wizards are, they’ll have to win 4 out of 7 to beat the top-seeded Raptors and move on to the second round.

    –The Raptors, who’ve proven themselves as the best in the East all season, finished the regular season with a record of 59-23, compared to the 43-39 of the Wizards. With no serious late-season injuries for either squad, the series will come down to who can make the most game-changing plays.

    –Will it be DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry? Or will John Wall and Co. come away with the series win and upset?

  2. Celtics vs. 7. BucksImage result for Celtics vs Bucks
    –The Celtics clinched the 2-seed last week, but that was before all-star point guard Kyrie Irving had season-ending knee surgery. Now, after playing (and winning) a few games without their star, the big question will be whether or not the young Celtics team has what it takes to put away the 7-seed Bucks, led by the “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    –Winning 55 games this season, the Celtics were in strong position to make a deep playoff run this year. Coming off last season, when they were the 1-seed in the East and lost to the Cavaliers in the ECF 4-1, acqusitions looked to help the C’s this year. Injuries hurt the team all year, starting on opening day when new SF Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle and hasn’t seen the floor since.

    –For the Bucks, 44-38, seeing the playoffs again shows progress for the franchise. With the development of Antetokounmpo, the young Bucks team hopes to advance past the first-round, where their season ended last season.

  3. 76ers vs. 6. HeatImage result for 76ers vs heat
    –Winners of their last 16 games, the 76ers took the league by storm in the last month of the regular season. Yet to lose in April, and haven’t dropped a game since March 13 when they fell 101-98 to the Pacers. As the hottest team in the league, the 76ers have a target on their backs. Before this win streak, they were going to be content clinching a spot, but as the 3-seed, facing the Heat, the 76ers will have to continue to impress on the court to compete with D. Wade and company.

    –The Heat on the other hand, have had their share of struggles all season. Before trading for D. Wade back in February, the Heat sat at just 29-26. Although they finished just 44-38, the Heat have a strong backcourt, led by Goran Dragic, D. Wade and Tyler Johnson, and a decent frontcourt: Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson.

    –It’s been a good year for Philadelphia, and I think the NBA Playoffs will treat the 76ers well. Once they get past the Heat, I expect Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz to carry their team into a deep playoff run.

  4. Cavaliers vs. 5. PacersImage result for cavs vs pacers
    –It’t no surprise that the Cavs are back in the playoffs. In his 15th season, LeBron is putting up career highs. He played all 82 games, and has more total (not average) stats than every other MVP candidate (Harden included). Sitting at 50-32, LeBron and the Cavs are in a strong position to run through the Eastern Conference.

    –After getting the 3-seed sniped from them by the streaking 76ers, the 4-seed Cavs will face the 5-seed Pacers, and easier matchup than I’d expect to see from the 6-seed Heat. Although a Heat-Cavs, LeBron-D. Wade matchup would be a great series to see, the Cavs are too good to end their season in the first-round.

    –Finishing the season 48-34, just 2 games back from Cleveland, the Pacers are looking to utilize Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic to spread out the Cavs and make them defend them inside and out.

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Western Conference: With the seeding for seeds 3-8 up in the air until Wednesday night (regular season finale), every team in the running was playing well. The Timberwolves squeaked by the Nuggets for the 8-seed, and Russell Westbrook made history, again, by averaging a triple-double over the season.

  1. Rockets vs. 8. TimberwolvesImage result for rockets vs timberwolves
    –The Rockets have led the league all season. With the best record in either conference, they sit at 65-17. After acquiring Chris Paul during the offseason, the Rockets are more than equipped to beat any team in the NBA. James Harden, with the dirtiest crossover in the league, is the top candidate for MVP, and that has helped propel him down the stretch.

    — After JUST sneaking into the playoffs with their 8-seed, the Timberwolves are just happy they made it. Sitting at 47-35, the Twolves were right on the verge of missing the postseason, but they beat the Nuggets in their regular season finale to secure their spot. KAT, Wiggins and Butler have what it takes to win big games in big moments, but they’ll need to prove it against the best team in the NBA this series.

    –Making their first playoff appearance since 2004, when Kevin Garnett was playing in MN, the Timberwolves are above .500 for the first time in 14 seasons. With Butler, Rose, Wiggins and KAT, the Twolves have the skills and ability to play up to their competition, but they have little playoff experience (D. Rose).

  2. Warriors vs. 7. SpursImage result for warriors vs spurs
    –After the best few seasons in NBA history, the Warriors are back down to Earth. Sitting at 58-24, they are still in a drivers seat in the West. Facing a tough Popovich coached Spurs team, the Warriors will have to survive until Steph Curry can get back on the court. Shouldn’t be an issue, since they still have 3-4 all-stars (Durant, Thompsen, Iggy, Green), but it’s worth noting that since Curry has been out with injury, the Warriors have gone just 7-9.

    –The Spurs, without Kawhi Leonard all season, have again managed to see the post season. Gregg Popovich is a legend, and the Spurs have gotten new faces, with less experience but strong potential, to ‘rebuild’ their franchise. Tony Parker saw a steep dropoff this season, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Genobli (along with Patty Mills), have provided enough to get them back into the playoffs.

    –A few years ago, this was a dream matchup for the Western Conference Finals. Both teams were playing at such a high level, and both coaches were going great work on the sidelines. Now, without Leonard and Curry for at least a few games, there is much less star power.

  3. Trailblazers vs. 6. PelicansImage result for trail blazers vs pelicans
    –At 49-33, the Trailblazers have cemented their position as a 3-seed in the West. Taking on a big Pelicans team, they’ll have to spread the ball around and get past Anthony Davis on the inside to get through this series.

    –The Pelicans, sitting at a 48-34, just one game back from the Blazers, will have to get the ball inside to big AD, spread the ball with Rondo, and make the Blazers defend them in the half-court. This 3-6 matchup has the potential to go to 7 games if the Pelicans can stay in each game and keep it close down the stretch.

    –With Harkless ruled out for game 1, the Blazers will likely play Evan Turner and Aminu a healthy amount and hope for strong production from their bench.

  4. Thunder vs. 5. JazzImage result for thunder vs jazz
    –With three all-stars, a league MVP and at least 1 future HoF inductee, the Thunder didn’t play as well as they should’ve this season. Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the second straight season, but was alongside Carmello Anthony and Paul George this season. With the added star power, the Thunder should’ve won more than the 48 games they did (48-34).

    –The Jazz, who’re making the playoffs for the second consecutive year are relying heavily on Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to force Westbrook and company into bad passes and make mistakes. To win, the Jazz will have to win the rebounding battle and find a way to limit scoring opportunities from Melo, PG13 and Russ.

    –This will be the closest first-round series of the playoffs. I expect it to go to 6 games, but I think at least 2 of the first 4 will go down to the wire or OT.


PREDICTION:

Eastern Conference

(1) Raptors–>5 games                                                                              
(8) Wizards

(2) Celtics–>6 games

(3) 76ers–>5 games  
(6) Heat

(4) Cavs–4 games
(5) Pacers

Western Conference:
(1) Rockets–>4 games
(8) Timberwolves

(2) Warriors–>5 games
(7) Spurs

(3) Trailblazers
(6) Pelicans–>6 games

(4) Thunder–>6 games
(5) Jazz

A full schedule of all the games in the first-round can be found HERE.

NBA: Playoff Preview Final Countdown

As the end of the regular season nears in the NBA, there are a lot of different things to consider moving forward. Here are a few.

Tiebreakers:
(From CBS Sports Online)

Eastern Conference: The spots are filled, now we’ll have to see who ends up at which seed.

1. Toronto Raptors (56-22) 

  • Split series: Celtics (2-2)
  • Note: 12-4 division record, 37-11 conference record

 

2. Boston Celtics (53-25)

  • Split series: Raptors (2-2)
  • Note: 11-4 division record, 31-17 conference record

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (49-30)

  • Win tiebreakers over: 76ers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to:  Pacers (3-1)
  • Note: They visit Philadelphia on Friday

4. Philadelphia 76ers (48-30)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Pacers (2-1), Cavaliers (2-1)
  • Note: They host Cavaliers on Friday

5. Indiana Pacers (47-32)

  •   Win tiebreakers over: Cavaliers (3-1), 76ers (2-1)

 

6. Miami Heat (43-36)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Bucks (3-0)
  • Split series: Wizards (2-2)
  • Note: 11-5 division record

7. Washington Wizards (42-37)

  • Split series: Heat (2-2), Bucks (2-2)
  • Note: 8-6 division record

 

8. Milwaukee Bucks (42-37)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Heat (3-0)
  • Split series: Wizards (2-2)
  • Note: 6-10 division record

Western Conference:  There are still two spots that need filled. As of now, two more teams could make the cut and bump out two teams currently in the top-8.

1. Houston Rockets (64-15)

  • Locked, second seed

 

3. Portland Trail Blazers (48-31)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (2-1)
  • Split series: Spurs (1-1)
  • Note: Their remaining four games are against Houston, San Antonio, Denver and Utah

    4. Utah Jazz (46-33)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Spurs (3-1), Pelicans (3-1), Clippers (3-1), Jazz (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to:Thunder (3-1)
  • Split series: Timberwolves (2-2), Nuggets (2-2)
  • Note: They visit Portland next Wednesday; 7-8 division record

5. San Antonio Spurs (45-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Timberwolves (2-1), Clippers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Split series: Blazers (1-1), Thunder (2-2), Nuggets (2-2)
  • Note: They host Portland on Saturday and visit New Orleans next Wednesday; 9-6 division record

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Jazz (3-1), Clippers (3-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Timberwolves (3-1), Pelicans (2-1), Nuggets (3-1)
  • Split series: Spurs (2-2)
  • Note: 5-11 division record

7. New Orleans Pelicans (44-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Spurs (2-1), Thunder (2-1), Clippers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Timberwolves (4-0), Nuggets (2-1)
  • Note: They visit the Clippers next Monday and host San Antonio next Wednesday; 7-7 division record

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (44-35)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (3-1), Pelicans (4-0), Nuggets (2-1), Clippers (4-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Spurs (2-1)
  • Split series: Jazz (2-2)
  • Note: They host Denver next Wednesday; 9-6 division record

9. Denver Nuggets (44-35)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (3-1), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Timberwolves (2-0), Clippers (2-0)
  • Split series: Jazz (2-2), Spurs (2-2)
  • Note: Their three remaining games are against the Clippers, Portland and Minnesota; 8-6 division record

10. Los Angeles Clippers (42-37)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Nuggets (2-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Spurs (2-1), Thunder (3-0), Timberwolves (4-0), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Note: They host Denver on Saturday and host New Orleans next Monday; 12-3 division record

NOTE: I took all of these tiebreaker scenarios directly from CBS Sports. If you’d like to see it there, CLICK HERE.


Home-Court Advantage:

In each series, one team gets home-court advantage as well. Meaning the games are played 2-2-1-1-1…which means 2 at home, 2 away, then alternating through the seven game series if needed.

There are a number of different stats that go into deciding home-court, but generally the team with the better overall record, better head-to-head record, and/or point differential earns home-court for the series. That team is usually the higher seed, but not automatically.

Eastern Conference:

With only the top-seed in each conference earning home-court advantage for the duration of the playoffs, the Raptors or Celtics are looking to secure that honor. As of now, the Raptors are in the drivers seat in the East, sitting three games ahead of the Celtics. But there is still a chance that the seeding could switch before the playoffs start and Boston could lock down the top-seed and home-court that comes with it.

Western Conference:

Again, the Western Conference playoff seeding is still up in the air, but the top-2 seeds are locked in. The Houston Rockets have secured the top-seed, and home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, and the Golden State Warriors have landed the 2-seed.


Injuries:
(Updated Injury Report)

Eastern Conference:

Raptors: With no serious injuries, the Raptors are in good shape heading into the playoffs.

Celtics: All-star point guard Kyrie Irving had season-ending knee surgery, Gordon Hayward still in rehab from his gruesome ankle injury on opening day, and David Theis, a fill-in PF, out injured, the Celtics will need to keep up with their tough Eastern Conference competition in the playoffs.

Cavaliers: As long as LeBron can stay healthy and well-rested, the Cavaliers will be a strong force in the playoffs.

76ers: Joel Embiid is currently out with an eye injury, but is expected to be good to go by the time the first-round of the playoffs rolls around.

Pacers: Assuming all the Pacers can stay rested and uninjured, they should be in good shape for a run in the playoffs.

Heat: Dion Waiters is out for the season, but the Heat have been okay without him. Look for them to make a push during the last week of the regular season to improve their seed.

Wizards: The Wizards are healthy and finishing the season strong. With John Wall resting, they should be ready to go in the playoffs.

Bucks: With non-serious injuries to Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon, they are all game-day decisions. Landing a low-seed in the playoffs would be serious progress for the franchise.

Western Conference:

Rockets: With no significant injuries, the Rockets will earn home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. I expect James Harden and Chris Paul to play some, but will earn rest to be fresh for the first-round.

Warriors: Stephen Curry is out until the playoffs with a knee injury, but is expected to be ready when the first-round starts. Andre Iguodala is a game-time decision with a non-serious knee injury.

Trailblazers: With a tweaked ankle, Damian Lillard is still a game-time decision, and the Trailblazers will want to keep the 3-seed locked down, so I expect to see Dame play more before the regular season ends. Other injuries include back-ups Ed Davis (PF) and Maurice Harkless (SF).

Jazz: Ricky Rubio (PG), Jae Crowder (PF) and Raul Neto (PG) are all game-time decisions, but should be playing most of the remaining games. Currently the 4-seed, the Jazz can still finish as high as 3rd, but will likely remain at 4.

Spurs: Kawhi Leonard has been out most of the season, but the Spurs and Coach Pop have kept them right in the middle of the playoff conversation. If Leonard is able to play in the playoffs, the Spurs could come out of no where and run the table through the first and second rounds in the West.

Thunder: This season was all about a new “Big-3” era for the Thunder. With Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook all healthy going into the playoffs, they could be the team to beat. There record and seeding doesn’t reflect the talent on the court.

Pelicans: The injury bug has hurt the Pelicans all season. After the loss of DeMarcus Cousins, many thought their playoff hopes were gone. But now, even with injuries to Frank Jackson and Alexis Ajinca, the Pelicans are clinging to the 7-seed, but can finish as high as 4th if they win out and other teams lose.

Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler has been limited since the All-Star break, but looks to get back on the court for a deep run in the playoffs. Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague are also listed on the official injury report as game-time decisions, but I expect the Timberwolves to play everyone available to end the season strong and earn a higher seed in the West.

Nuggets: Currently the 9-seed, the Nuggets are on the verge of missing the playoffs. Luckily, the injury bug hasn’t hurt them too much. With non-serious injuries to starting SG Gary Harris, expected to be playing by the playoffs, and PF Tyler Lydon out through May, the Nuggets have stayed right with the pack in search of the last seed in the West.

Clippers: Injuries have challenged the Clippers all season. Hunting for the 8-seed in the West, SG Avery Bradley is likely to miss the first-round of the playoffs (if they make the cut). Additionally, SF Danilo Gallinari and PG Milos Teodosic are expected to be active by the time the first-round comes around.

NBA: Playoff Picture

As the NBA season winds down, the playoff picture continues to grow closer. With only 10 games left of the regular season, only five of the 16 teams have clinched a spot in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

With a big slate of crucial games remaining, both the Eastern and Western Conferences will be decided in the final days of the season.

Here is how the playoff picture looks currently, as of 2 p.m. (CST) on 3/25.

Eastern Conference Standings:

x=clinched playoff spot          y=clinched division          GB=games back

Image result for nba eastern conference

1. x-Toronto Raptors (54-19)———–0 GB
2. x-Boston Celtics (49-23)—————4.5 GB
3. x-Cleveland Cavaliers (43-29)——10.5 GB
4. Philadelphia 76ers (42-30)———–11.5 GB
5. Indiana Pacers (42-31)—————–12 GB
6. Washington Wizards (40-32)——–13.5 GB
7. Miami Heat (39-34)———————-15 GB
8. Milwaukee Bucks (38-34)————15.5 GB
9. Detroit Pistons (33-40)—————–21 GB
10. Charlotte Hornets (33-41)———-21.5 GB

Western Conference Standings:

x=clinched playoff spot          y=clinched division          GB=games back

Image result for nba eastern conference

1. y-Houston Rockets (59-14)———–0 GB
2. y-Golden State Warriors (54-18)–4.5 GB
3. Portland Trailblazers (44-28)——14.5 GB
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-30)–15.5 GB
5. San Antonio Spurs (43-30)———–16 GB
6. New Orleans Pelicans (43-31)——16.5 GB
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-32)-17.5 GB
8. Utah Jazz (41-32)————————–18 GB
9. Denver Nuggets (40-33)—————-19 GB
10. LA Clippers (38-34)——————–20.5 GB
11. Los Angeles Lakers (32-40)——–26.5 GB

Although the 9-11 ranked teams in each conference aren’t statistically eliminated yet, none of them have a record over .500 overall, or in their last 10 games, leading into the postseason. In order to make it, the fringe teams will have to bank on other teams losing and their conference all but falling apart between now and the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 14.

In the Eastern Conference, the 3-8 seeds are separated by just 5 games. That means that if any of those teams wins, and another loses, the gap grows by an entire game. If a team in these seeds beats another team in these seeds, the gap gets cut by an entire game.

For example, if the Miami Heat (currently 15 GB from the Raptors) beat the Indiana Pacers (currently 12 GB from the Raptors) today when they play in Indiana, the Heat would move to 40-34 and the Pacers would drop to 42-32, which would completely change the playoff picture. One game can mess with the 3-8 seeds, and each of those teams will play 8-10 more games this season to decide where they will end up come postseason.

The Western Conference is just as close as the Eastern Conference. Much like the Raptors and the Celtics, the Rockets and the Warriors have separated themselves from the rest of the conference, and all but guaranteed themselves a top-two finish in the standings.

With the 3-10 seeds separated by just 6 games, the next 10 games will determine much more than playoff eligibility. For the last 5 or so years, the same 3-4 Western Conference teams have run the playoffs. The Rockets, Warriors and Spurs have been a consistent force come postseason, and continue to do so.

New this season, are the 4-5 teams beginning to rebuild their franchises to become playoff contenders.

Here is the schedule for the remained of the NBA season.

As the NCAA March Madness tournament bracket comes to an end on April 2 with the National Championship game, basketball fans around the world will be eagerly watching as their favorite teams battle it out for the last few spots in the NBA Playoffs.

Come back then for a prediction on each conference and playoffs as they’re happening.

Don’t forget to follow me on social media (linked on the left above) or @mlashpr on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

NBA: All-Star Weekend headlines with Team Steph vs. Team Lebron

 

In an effort to even the All-Star rosters, the NBA has decided to go a different route of picking teams. This year, teams were chosen in a draft-style. The top two players with the most All-Star votes are named team captains of the Eastern and Western Conference.

Unsurprisingly, those two superstars were Stephen Curry and Lebron James.

After the team captains were set, each captain got to fill his roster with players from any team (on either conference), based on the remaining All-Star voting list.

Here’s how the rosters were drafted. Gold stars designate starters, the rest are reserves.

Each team chose a local or national charity to support, and the winning team will have a major contribution made on behalf of the players and NBA.

Team Lebron has chosen “After-School All-Stars Los Angeles” as his charity, and Team Steph has chosen “Brotherhood Crusade.”

The winning team will donate $350,000 to their teams charity, and the losing team will donate $150,000.

Unfortunately for #TeamLebron, the injury bug has found it’s way to his roster. With injuries to one of his starters (DeMarcus Cousins) and three of his reserves (John Wall, Kevin Love and Kristaps Porzingis), the team has had to find replacements.

Paul George is replacing Cousins, following his Achilles injury. Andre Drummond is replacing Wall after his knee injury. Goran Dragic is replacing Love, following his hand injury. And Kemba Walker is replacing Porzingis after his ACL tear.

Three of the four replacements are playing in their first or second All-Star game, and Paul George is playing in his fifth.

The game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. central time in the Staples Center, home of the LA Lakers and LA Clippers. The game will be televised on TNT.



Other aspects of the weekend are the Skills Challenges, Celebrity Game and the Rising Stars Game.

The Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge are all activities that players are invited to, based on their play in game during the first half of the NBA season.

Participants in the events are not considered NBA All-Stars, but are invited to attend in the events the are participating in.

Here is a link to the participants in each of the skills events.

The other big game of the weekend is the Rising Stars Game, which includes only the best first and second year players from across the league.

In the past, this game has mimicked the All-Star game with East vs. West, and even Rookies vs. Sophomores (2nd years). Since 2015, this game has been “Team USA vs. Team World” with teams made up of at least three rookies and three sophomores (for balance).

Team USA was comprised of players in the NBA originally from the US while Team World was players in the NBA from other countries.

Here are this years rosters.

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Photo by NBA.com

The Rising Stars Challenge will be played on Friday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. central time and will be televised on TNT.



This years All-Star game will feature specialty jerseys by Jordan. The jerseys will have each players last name, team logo and number on them, as well as the “All-Star Edition” patch for the weekend. This is the first All-Star game with Jordan jerseys, and the sleekness of all black and white jerseys looks good. We’ll see what they look like on the court next weekend.



Keep an eye out for the highest scoring game during the NBA season. That’s how you know the All-Star game has been played.

Come back next week for a recap and update on how the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend went.

Until next time.