Eastern Conference mid- Season Recap
The NBA season has now reached it’s mid- season point and it is time to see how the league is shaping up. With the All-Star game right around the corner, the players can finally smell the playoffs as they fight for their chance to knock off the two time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Most of the NBA standings are true to pre-season predictions, but many surprises in the first half of the season may lead to a wild finish to the season. The following is a recap of the Eastern Conference up to the last week of January.
Atlantic- Boston Celtics (35-11); The Celtics are once again at the top of their game and are fighting to prove that even a dream team in South Beach wont be able to dethrone them at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have continued to use the Boston Garden as a safe haven as they have dominated opponents at home with a 22-3 record. Not only is it tough to beat the Celtics at home, they have swarmed opponents with a defense that leads the league by only allowing 91.5 points a game. Boston has cooled down a little since an early season run, due to injuries to Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, but the depth of this team has helped it overcome these misfortunes and are gearing up for a strong finish.
Central- Chicago Bulls (33-14); It is always nice seeing the Bulls back on top of the division, reviving the images of Michael Jordan and the glory days, but these Bulls still have a lot to do to be put in that category. Chicago has proved to be a death zone for opponents as they have raced out to a daunting 23-4 home record. This mark is impressive, but the best teams win on the road, where Chicago has struggled at a 10-10 mark thus far this season. Chicago only trails the Celtics, by allowing 92 points a game this season, as the Bulls have emphasized defense this season. Although Derrick Rose has led the way, newcomer Carlos Boozer was due to be an impact player, and since returning from a preseason injury, he has proved to be just that, averaging almost 20 points and 10 rebounds in 29 games this season. This team seems to be rolling and when Joakim Noah returns from injury, it will be interesting to see how far this Chicago team can go.
Southeast- Miami Heat (32-14); Everybody new the party was in Miami this season when Chris Bosh and Lebron James brought their talents to South Beach, and boy, what a party it has been. Early season struggles combined with multiple injuries have plagued Miami, but somehow they have still been able to hold off Orlando and claim the top spot in a competitive Southeast division. Miami has been much better than expected on defense, allowing 93.8 points a game for fourth in the Conference, while putting up over 101 points a game themselves. Miami has been in some tough games this season, most notably a loss at Madison Square Garden earlier this week, but for the most part it has been all Heat when playing Miami this season. Miami has posted a record of 21-3 in games decided by 10 points of more this season, ultimately blowing out opponents that just cant seem to keep up. The Miami rendition of the Big 3 has put up an astonishing 70 points and 22 rebounds a game this season, and when all healthy, they are a force to try and stop.
Rest of East Playoff Standings:
4- Orlando Magic (30-17); Right on the heels of the Heat, Orlando has been a force this season with Dwight Howard now teaming up with Wizards outcast Gilbert Arenas. The Magic have been playing well and are now longer with Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis as they were shipped away in two separate deals. The return of Hedo Turkoglu and arrival of Jason Richardson as brought a new spark to this Orlando team, and when the chemistry is worked out, this team may turn out to be the one representing the East in the NBA finals.
5- Atlanta Hawks (30-18); The Hawks are once again in prime position to make a run in the playoffs. The third best team in the Southeast division is ready to prove they are more than a first round team and would like nothing more than a chance at redemption after getting swept by Orlando in the second round of last years playoffs. With a new head coach in place, many were worried about the change in command, messing up the chemistry that was already in place. This has been proved to not be the case, as the Hawks have just as many wins at home as they do on the road (15). Always a sign for progress, the road victories may be necessary come playoff time, unless they can unseat Orlando as the fourth seed before the playoffs begin.
6- New York Knicks (24-22); So the signing of Amare has been a huge boost in New York city this year, as they are trying to regain a relevant status and return to the playoffs. Coach D’Antoni is out doing his old tricks again by not playing any defense, but rather trying to outscore every team that walks in the building. This formula worked decently in Phoenix for several years, but can this be a formula for a championship? Probably not this year, but a Knicks team averaging a Conference high 106 points a game, may wreck some havoc if it can hold onto the a playoff spot. It will be interesting if the Knicks matched up with the Heat, as they have sparked a rivalry that brings us back to the 90’s.
7/8- Philadelphia 76ers/ Charlotte Bobcats(20-26); With Allen Iverson long gone and overseas, the Sixers look to regain playoff form that made them so popular throughout the past decade. Led by Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, the Sixers are trying hard to reach the playoffs, but more focus should be placed on finishing with a .500 record. Charlotte has a similar situation floating, has it got its first taste of the playoffs last season. The mid-season departure of Larry Brown may have caused a mild disruption in Charlotte, but the arrival of Paul Silas makes us remember the days of when the Hornets played here. Led by Stephen Jackson, the Bobcats have talent to hang with some of the better teams in the league, but being the fourth team from the Southeast trying to make the playoffs, they may not be able to hang around. It will be interesting to see if these teams can hold on to their playoff spot, but with half the season still remaining, a lot of shaking up may be still to come.
Eastern Conference Food For Thought:
By: Jason Stein
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