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NBA Playoff Race In The Second Half

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NBA Playoff Race In The Second Half

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As the first half of the NBA regular season is heading into All-Star weekend, we find that the playoff race is wide open. Remember, it’s the 8 best teams from each conference that make it into the postseason.. I’ll go through the teams that have the best chance of making one of those 16 spots for postseason play as well as a few outlier teams that may sneak their way into that last spot down the stretch.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors have been in the finals the past four years and they haven’t lost too many pieces to their dynasty. Yet, they have added DeMarcus Cousins, who will help them push through the second half into the playoffs for another run at a title.

Houston Rockets: This team in Houston has all the pieces to make a great run in the playoffs as well as one of the great players of this era in James Harden. I don’t think they have the chemistry or the temperament to take it all the way. The Western Conference is too stacked with talent and great coaching that the Rockets will have their hands full once again.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz will undoubtedly make the playoffs unless they just give up in the second half of the season, but I don’t see that happening. Their mix of veterans and young players has been successful the past few seasons with great playoff runs, yet they still quite haven’t climbed over that hump of making it all the way. This year, their star Donovan Mitchell has had a down year, but I see him exploding in the second half to really uplift the Jazz heading into the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets: Never been a Nuggets fan, but it’s hard not to cheer for a team that really doesn’t have a superstar. Rather, they have a collection of stars who can knock down shots at anytime and that is key when playing teams like the Golden State Warriors. With the recent comeback of Isaiah Thomas , look for the Nuggets to continue their great run in the second half and into the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers: Dangerous and talented….during the regular season. I’m not hating on them, but it seems like every year Portland does well enough to put themselves in a good position in the playoffs and then just crumbles in the first or second round of the western conference playoffs. It’s a new year so who knows what can happen. I just hope Damian Lillard can elevate his team to at least the western conference for the fans.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook and Paul George. These two are enough star power to walk into the playoffs and make some noise in the western conference. The only thing we can do now is wait and see.

San Antonio Spurs: To Spurs fans, this would be a down year, especially with them trading away Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors. I think if they don’t absolutely crack in the second half, Coach Popovich and star LaMarcus Aldridge will pull them into one of the eight spots in the playoff race. With the addition of DeMar DeRozan, they can make a lot of  noise in the playoffs against any western conference team they face. That’s just how great Coach Pop is and how prepared he gets his team ready to play in those types of games. Don’t be surprised if the Spurs have a good run when playoffs come rolling around.

Los Angeles Clippers: Head coach Doc Rivers knows about the playoffs and what it takes to win championships. He’ll be tested in the second half of the season, especially losing a couple key players in Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic at the trade deadline. I’d say they don’t make it out of the first round, but just making the playoffs without a true star besides former 6th man of the year Lou Williams is a positive season in the books. It’s not what any coach or player wants since the end goal is a championship.

Outlier: Los Angeles Lakers: This one is tough since the Lakers are my favorite team in the NBA. As of right now, it seems like the team is not going to make the playoffs because of troubles on the court. The reason I put them as the outlier is because they have a certain person in Lebron James, who is accustomed to pushing his teams into the playoffs. It might be wishful thinking this season, but this young team mixed with veterans they are more than capable of making a push for that 8th spot.

 

Eastern Conference

Toronto Raptors: Right now looking at the Toronto Raptors they are the top team in the eastern conference and the team to beat. With Lebron out of the picture in the eastern race, it looks like Kawhai and the Raptors will take the top spot heading into the postseason.  

Boston Celtics: In the beginning of the season, I thought the Celtics would be the frontrunners of the east after Lebron departed. That is not the case this year as the team has had its struggles with its schedule. This young core of guys don’t seem like they have good chemistry like they did last year. Even with great players like Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the team still finds ways to lose games. They will make the playoffs, but will have a rude awakening if they keep their style of play going into the postseason.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks in my opinion are the scariest team in the eastern conference. Not because they have the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo who is one of the best. It’s because the team as a whole is so dangerous that they can strike on anyone at anytime. Giannis is one of those generational players and the Bucks front office have added pieces to the team where they can make some moves in the playoffs- hopefully an eastern conference title.

Philadelphia 76ers: First things first is that the 76ers are the most talented team in the eastern conference hands down, but that can contested with the Boston Celtics. Either way the sixers don’t always put it together though and let teams slide by them with wins. But when you look at a roster that has: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and JJ Reddick, you think these guys should be blowing past teams. It’s been a bumpy season, yet at times they show their talent and what they can do when everyone is on the same page knocking down shots. I expect them to make it to the eastern conference finals.

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers are a bunch of scrappy players who do pose a threat in the playoffs. But I think their season ended when the star player Victor Oladipo was injured. He was really the only chance of them making a push past the first round of playoffs. With him out on the sidelines I think the pacers will be out by the first round.

Detroit Pistons: This is another scrappy team that I think can do some damage in the east behind their superstar Blake Griffin. That is, if they can string up some wins before seasons end and use that momentum going into the playoffs. Without a winning streak, this team is vulnerable to giving up during games. That’s why I think they need a win streak, in order to boost their morale in the playoffs. If not, they’re going to be one of the first teams out.

Brooklyn Nets: The sleeper team in my opinion is the Brooklyn Nets. This team doesn’t have mega star power, yet they seem to put away teams by playing team basketball at a high level. Their star player, D’Angelo Russell, has emerged as pivotal piece to their team who can score willingly. With him healthy and ready to go I can see the Nets moving past the first round and causing some buzz in the eastern conference playoffs.

Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker, Kemba Walker and Kemba Walker. That’s all you need to know when talking about the Hornets. This dude is a killer on the court and with the mix of vets and youngsters the front office have put around him, this team is capable of doing damage come playoffs.

Outlier: Magic/Heat: One of these Florida teams will take a push at the eighth spot for a chance in the playoffs. Right now both teams are on the fringe, but if they can scramble so wins together for the next month they’ll give themselves good positioning to make the playoffs.  

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