Down the Stretch they come in the NBA

By: Frank Jordan     Date: Feb 27, 2018


Outlook of the East

There are a few scenarios that have changed the East for the playoff push in the final quarter of the regular season. Boston and Toronto stayed put with what they had at the trade deadline, Cleveland had a total shake up, Washington is holding course while Wall is on the mend, the Knicks are sinking without Porzingis, and the biggest move was made by Detroit landing Blake Griffin. The move by Detroit hasn’t put them into a playoff spot yet, but it should lean that way in the last quarter of the season. The Cleveland trades helped give them the shot in the arm they needed because they were looking old, sluggish and unable to play defense. Cleveland has won four in a row scoring 120+ in each game including 140 against Minnesota, but the important thing was their defense stepping up allowing 112 or fewer in three of those four wins after those trades were made. Cleveland is 6-4 in their last 10 games, but the loss to San Antonio the other night when the game was tight heading into the final 12 minutes was a red flag. Cleveland, at home mind you, got outscored 34-20 in the fourth to turn a 76-74 game at the end of 3rd quarter into a blowout loss. Detroit picked up wins in their first five games after getting Griffin but having lost a few of late going 4-6 in their last 10 has them still on the outside looking in for the playoffs in the East. Washington is holding well without Wall, however one more veteran guard to fill the gap before Wall returns would have been nice, but there wasn’t anything there at the deadline. The chemistry of the team is solid and there was no need to interrupt that plus Beal and Porter are doing well on the offensive side in Wall’s absence. The Knicks are done for with Porzingis going down and are on the skids which sets them up for a high draft choice. This could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Knicks as Porzingis was starting to feel the rigors of another 82-game schedule and breaking down. This injury gives him time to rest, recuperate and get stronger while giving the Knicks a high draft choice to get a highly touted star to put with him. The key is what will Boston and Toronto do in efforts to contend with Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, Indiana and Philadelphia who round out the top seven in the East. Look for Toronto, Cleveland and Boston to have big winning streaks in the second half separating themselves from the rest of the pack duking it out for the top spot in the East and home court advantage. Toronto and Washington will put forth good effort in the last quarter of the season and in the playoffs, but when the smoke settles in the East it will be Boston and Cleveland, Kyrie vs. LeBron for a chance to go to the Finals and should be a deep, fun and exciting series.

Outlook of the West

This is a two-team race atop the Western Conference with Houston and Golden State neck and neck both with 47 wins, however Houston is a touch better with only 13 losses to Golden State’s 14. Third through eighth seeds separated by just a few games which will make for some great basketball and down the stretch in the final 20 or so games of the regular season. The LA Clippers are ninth in the west and Utah, who has won 12 out of 14, sits in the 10th seed are a couple of games out of a playoff spot, so you can’t count them out just yet. The questions become who will stay healthy, who will be recharged and who will get the breaks to lead them into the playoffs and the highest seed they can get in the final 25 games or so. The biggest swing in a team’s chances could be the health of Kawhi Leonard who did have a setback in his rehab of his quad and the Spurs hope to get him back sooner than later. New reports out say Leonard might comeback in March and if he comes back strong and shakes off the rust in time for the playoffs along with the team that went into Cleveland and won by double digits show up this could turn the West into a three-team race. Minnesota might have something to say as the current three seed but may be the dark horse fourth team to make noise in the West. Currently New Orleans, Portland, Denver and Oklahoma City round out the bottom four playoff teams and they may be tough outs in the playoffs, but its doubtful they will make any upsets come playoff time. Look for it to be Houston and Golden State in the conference finals and buckle up for an epic seven game series.


 
 
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