By Hocine LOUKKAF
With 20 games left this year, Toronto and Boston are having a fight for the important home advantage in the playoffs while Detroit and Charlotte still hope to clinch a playoff berth.
-Toronto Raptors (44-17)
Only one loss over the last eleven games for the consistent Raptors. With eleven players with at least 49 games played and 16min per game, the Raptors are, year by year, trying to improve their team depth. They still have to be strong to maintain their top position but will be hard to beat in May.
-Boston Celtics (44-20)
They may regret their two 3 home-losses series against lower ranked teams that may cause them the top seed. Now that we know Hayward will not come back, they will need Horford (6pts or less over the last 10 games) and rookie Jayson Tatum (6 games under 40% FG over the last 10 games) to be better.
-Cleveland Cavaliers (36-25)
You don’t want your last Eastern Conference champion to lose against lower ranked opponets at home. That’s what the Cavs did vs Philly and Washington. All the newcomers (Clarkson, Hood, Hill, Nance Jr) have been pretty good but Lebron has to play like superman (25.9pts 10rbds 10as over the last 10 games) to hide the Cavs poor inside sector and prevent the Cavs to end below the top four.
-Washington Wizards (36-27)
Since Wall’s injury, the Wizards have lost only 5 of their 16 games, including two against lower ranked opponents (one again the 76ers in Philly). Beal (6.9as over the last 10 games) and above all Satoransky (12pts 6as over the last 10 games) have been the clear facilitators during the stretch.
-Indiana Pacers (35-27)
The Pacers struggle with consistency as they lost against lottery hopefuls Hawks and Mavericks. The probable most improved player this year, Victor Oladipo, had only 21pts and 22pts on 9/25 FG (including 1/9 from 3) against the Hawks.
-Philadelphia Sixers (34-27)
You can definitely trust the process!! Game by game, the 76ers are securing their playoff spot. Despite two away losses against Miami and the John Wall-less Wizards, they bounced back with a precious win over the Cavs. Of course, Embiid (24pts 11rbds 2blks) and our rookie of February Ben Simmons are showing the way but the Sixers are a team as Reddick proved it by being the best scorer against the Cavs.
-Milwaukee Bucks (33-29)
3 wins over the last nine games, yet they found a way to beat the Raptors in Toronto. Giannis may hit a wall as he had only two games above his season 27pts average during the stretch with a terrible 11/34 FG during the last two losses against Detroit and Indiana.
-Miami Heat (33-30)
Despite 9 losses over their last 13 games, the Heat had important wins against Milwaukee, Philly and above all Detroit. In a team without any franchise player, Josh richardson has been pretty good lately with 15pts in four of the last five games and 3.5stls during the stretch.
-Detroit Pistons (29-34)
The Pistons went all in trading their team versatility with Harris and Bradley (and a first round draft pick) to get Griffin. After five wins in a row, Detroit only won twice over the last ten games with poor showings against Atlanta, Orlando and Miami. Griffin had only one 50+% FG during the stretch as the Pistons may already regret the trade.
-Charlotte Hornets (28-35)
It will be hard for the Hornets. They will need a miracle to clinch that so important playoff berth, but, after two losses against Boston and Philly, and a matchup against the Raptors, Charlotte will have a lighter schedule with games against numerous lottery hopefuls.
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