AS it stands right now we are in for one of the closest finishes of the season ever. The West and East playoff races are going to go down to the wire with seedings changing every night. Some teams are timing their run and making moves and others are falling out of the pack, flirting with missing the postseason altogether.
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Toronto Raptors (45-17)
SITTING in the box seat to win the Eastern Conference for the first time, the Raptors need to be mentioned as a serious threat to go all the way. Bolstered by one of the bench units in the league, Toronto is storming towards a franchise record win tally. Of course, there two All-Stars make things easier as well, with DeRozan looking like an NBA elite at times. All signs point to a breakthrough season for the Raps after years of playoff shortcomings.
Portland Trailblazers (37-26)
SHOULD Damian Lillard be taken seriously as an MVP threat? In the last eight games, Lillard has averaged nearly 35 points a game and led Portland to a 7-1 record, climbing all the way to 3rd in the West. The Blazers don’t face too many long road trips, but they do close out the year with a big stretch of games away from the Moda Center. If they can put some cushion between them and their competitors than a top-4 finish will be theirs to lose.
Image from slamonline.com
Houston Rockets (49-13)
THERE is no team better in the league right now. Period. The Rockets are burning through the rest of the comp, moving their way towards the best record in the NBA. With the MVP frontrunner James Harden leading the way, Houston might have the best chance of knocking off the Warriors dynasty we have seen yet.
New Orleans Pelicans (36-26)
EIGHT straight wins have vaulted the Pelicans into a top-4 place amongst the West standings, knocking down the Spurs and Wolves in the process. Anthony Davis is doing his modern day Wilt Chamberlain impersonation and Jrue Holiday playing his heart out, NOLA doesn’t look like losing again anytime soon. The next fortnight will really tell us what we need to know about them with games against the Rockets, Spurs, Celtics and Wizards.
Image from fanragsports.com
Detroit Pistons (29-34)
AFTER trading for Blake Griffin it seemed like the Pistons were going to make a push into the playoffs. Instead, they have stalled going a sub-mediocre 6-8 sitting four games behind the 8th seeded Miami Heat, who they lost to on Saturday. With tough games still to go against Cleveland, Portland, Toronto, Utah and Denver, Detroit’s hopes of breaking through are looking very slim.
Denver Nuggets (35-28)
SPEAKING of Denver, it wasn’t long ago that we were looking at the Nuggets as a sneaky team who could make a run at a top-4 spot. They have Paul Millsap back now which should translate to a few more wins, but they haven’t looked promising by any stretch in recent times, with the exception of a big win in Cleveland last weekend. A stretch of seven straight road games in March looms as a make or break stretch for the Nuggets, who are just 11-19 on the road, the worst record out of any playoff seeds.
Image from fearthesword.com
Washington Wizards (36-28)
SINCE John Wall departed the Wizards have gone 10-8, at times looking great and at other times, well, not so great. Recent losses to Toronto and Indiana in their last two outings have dented their chances of claiming home-court advantage in the first round. It’s a shame considering I thought Washington could take the leap this season and instead they may have taken multiple steps backwards.
Minnesota Timberwolves (38-28)
ANOTHER team who looked to finish inside the conferences top four seeds was the Timberwolves. They continue to have yo-yo performances as they fail to establish themselves as a legitimate challenger for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Unable to establish any consistency and now with Jimmy Butler sidelined for the next month plus, Minnesota needs to be careful they don’t slide to far and set up a date with the Warriors or Rockets on the road in round one.