It’s Hard To Bet Against King James But The East Could Be More Open Than Ever
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It’s Hard To Bet Against King James But The East Could Be More Open Than Ever

Here’s who to watch for in the East over the final stretch of the NBA season

It’s Hard To Bet Against King James But The East Could Be More Open Than Ever

Despite the standings, Lebron James and the Cavaliers remain the favorites for the eastern conference finals and finals. With only 9 days left in the regular season, no team looks poised to steal King James crown. Despite being the first seed, the Raptors are slipping.

The Bucks aren’t ready, the Celtics don’t have Kyrie and the Wizards don’t have John Wall. After seven-straight Finals appearances by James-led teams, many people are begging for another matchup of anyone but Lebron. However, the eastern conference is a wide open race that should make the final stretch of the season very interesting.

Toronto Raptors (55-21)

These next week and a half might be one of the most important in the Canadian’s franchise history. Their two-game lead over the Celtics could evaporate and the no.1 seed could be snatched. The Raptors have dropped four out of their last seven games, and barely squeezed wins against lower-tier teams like the Nets.

Their old habits are coming back, with hero ball with DeRozan and Lowry taking over in the late stretch of games, an alarming trend echoing past playoff troubles.

Head coach Dwyane Casey needs to figure out defensive lineups before it’s too late. It’ll be interesting if he finds the right combination of players or quickly reverts back to the effectiveness of DeRozan and Lowry. Could the Raptors have peaked early?

Boston Celtics (53-23)

The elephant in the room for the Boston Celtics is the absence of Kyrie Irving. However, during the nine games, Irving has missed, rookie Jayson Tatum’s role has evolved with his usage going from 18.7 to 24.7. He has been running more handoffs, pick and rolls and isolations.

The rest of the roster has risen to the occasion as well. Marcus Morris has improved as a 3 point shooter and isolation scorer. Backup guard Terry Rozier has improved as a two player and provides timely scoring.Even Aron Baynes could be a shooter. He floated around the perimeter quite often on Saturday, brought the ball up once, and even made a pair of 3s. Not many other teams have a stretch 5.

Philadelphia 76ers (46-30)

The 76ers were playing great basketball until Fultz collided with Embiid. However, Embiid’s orbital fracture could be a blessing in disguise. Brett Brown tends to stagger Embiid’s and Ben Simmons’s minutes so that one of them is on the floor at all times, but what if one of them gets into foul trouble in the playoffs? Now, Brown can experiment with lineups that don’t feature either of his dominant forces to find out which combinations and roles work best.

The return of Fultz has helped the Sixers defensively but the rookie is still hesitant to shoot. The Sixers will need another player to step up and look no further than Dario Saric. The forward has proven to be able to hit 3s consistently and has shown signs of being able to handle the ball as sort of a ‘point forward’. Let’s find out how great Saric can be.

Washington Wizards(42-35)

After John Wall went down with a knee injury in January, the Wizards have averaged 5.3 more assists, logged 28 more touches and 32.1 more passes. Despite the sizzling start, the production eventually fizzled and Wall is needed more than ever.

Wall could be better, he takes too many midrange jumpers and still turns the ball over too much. Tomas Satoransky, Wall’s replacement at point guard, kept the rock moving, and attacked defenders upon receiving the ball. Wall can do that, too just better.

It’s a simple change that should come from film study and commitment. If Wall is healthy, the Wizards will be a threat just like they were in past postseasons. But to make a leap, they need Wall to take the positives from his team’s mini-surge during his absence and start applying the little things.

It’s hard to bet against King James but the East could be more open than ever.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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