The sad lot that was the Eastern Conference’s lower playoff seeds is brimming with competition, wins, and dare we say, some red-hot entertainment. With a resounding win over Orlando, the Pacers are now 13 and 15 in their last games since the tail end of January. That puts them at the top of a once-lowly five-team heap of Charlotte, Miami, Brooklyn, Boston, and themselves.
The five-man deck isn’t the type of pedigree fight we’re seeing work itself out at the top of the Western Conference but it’s certainly more involved than we would have all predicted just a month ago.
Indiana has a one-win edge over Charlotte with the two occupying the seventh and eight seeds respectively. Hanging on with plenty of grip is a Bosh-less Heat team that haven’t been winning much since securing the trade deadline’s best move. Still, with Dragic, Wade, Deng and Whiteside in tow, the Heat remain a deadly regular season opponent and an upset-in-the-making come playoff time.
Indy poses an even bigger headache as they could see a healthy Paul George, a top-10 stud when at 100 percent, return in time for some postseason fun. They’ve been playing against last season’s form, where their starting lineup was stellar but the bench anything but, by dominating through the high-scoring and gritty work of their reserve lineups. Really, these two factors are what makes their chance of remaining at the top of this five-team pile-up almost guaranteed. Figuring out who lands the eighth seed is much more a guessing game.
For now, Miami is holding onto the honors, but right behind them is Charlotte, thanks to the strong play of Mo Williams, who might have been the best mid-season acquisition on-court, not so much on paper. The Hornets have lost two-straight, which brings Boston (at 26-36 to Charlotte’s 28-34) right up their rear. Boston can certainly break a heart or two as it’s been playing the best of the three teams directly in competition for the eighth seed (Miami, Charlotte, and Boston), wining seven of its last ten games, and have more than a handful of games left against these five teams being discussed.
That brings us to Brooklyn, who despite a good stretch of games some weeks ago, is looking like the odd man out in all of this. They have now lost five-straight and aren’t prepped to do much else but spiral toward the bottom of the heap. It’s also worth mentioning the Pistons, team number six in all of this, who are technically still in the race but who are also sufferers of seven-straight losses. Though once running on all cylinders, the Detroit Boys should be looking to next year for a next time.
In all of this, XN has Indy and Charlotte rounding out the bottom of the Eastern Conference. But fans of all participating fandoms, even those left out of the playoff sweepstakes, can take comfort in seeing a trend rear its head here: that the Eastern Conference, for once in a very long time, might finally be looking up.
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