Eastern Conference Title Up for Grabs
Pair of Defining Games for NBA Playoffs on Tap This Week
We’re frothing at the mouth for two NBA Eastern Conference games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with the NBA playoffs just around the corner, they’re important games.
The regular-season title is up for grabs, and with only a half-game separating first and fourth, it’s the closest race in many years.
Action tips off with the Milwaukee Bucks vs Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday and concludes on Wednesday with the Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat. The Celtics are tied with the Heat atop the East but both teams have games on Monday night.
Bucks Making Title Tilt
The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are only a half-game behind the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, so Tuesday’s night winner could move into a tie for the top spot on Tuesday — depending on the outcome of Monday’s games.
The 76ers’ loss to Phoenix on Sunday dropped them into a tie for third with the Bucks, who demand respect as the defending champions.
When do NBA playoffs start? They start mid-April, so the top Eastern Conference teams have only a couple of weeks to make a push for the top seed.
Milwaukee is a team that could make a serious run, especially if it beats Philadelphia. The stretch run features some tough games, so it won’t be easy.
The Bucks face the likes of Brooklyn, Dallas, Chicago and Boston over the last eight games. They’ll fancy their chances of beating the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers, but there are no easy games in the NBA.
That’s why beating Philadelphia couldn’t be more important for the Bucks. It puts them ahead of the 76ers, who have a significantly easier schedule.
The Sixers face Indiana and Detroit twice apiece, so they could go 4-0 in those games and emerge as the Eastern Conference regular-season champion.
Whichever team wins on Tuesday could still be looking up at first place 24 hours later, when the Celtics play host to the Heat.
Surprisingly, despite struggling to make the playoffs, the ninth-place Brooklyn Nets are still favored to win the East.
News of Kyrie Irving being able to play every game for Brooklyn was welcomed by NBA bettors, who climbed aboard the Nets, but they’ll need to play well to beat any of the leading four teams during a playoff series.
Top Spot Up for Grabs
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will each have only five games to go after Wednesday night’s showdown.
The powerhouse battle features teams heading in the wrong direction. The Heat had control of the East before losing four straight — to the 76ers, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Nets — entering Monday’s home game vs. Sacramento.
It has been a disappointing run for the Heat, who have cooled off and will need to rediscover their best form.
It’s a different situation for the Celtics, who carried a six-game winning streak into Toronto on Monday night. It started with a win over Golden State and continued on Sunday by beating Minnesota 134-112.
Momentum is firmly with the Celtics to make a run for the Eastern Conference title, but they close out the regular season with three straight road games — all against teams currently in playoff positions.
Our NBA predictions see them going 5-2 at best over the next seven games, which could be enough.
Miami’s schedule isn’t any easier with four road games in its last six. The Heat have the likes of Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Atlanta to come, so they’ll do well to recapture the lead and take the top seed into the NBA playoffs.
76ers in Box Seat
Of the four teams vying for the top spot, the Philadelphia 76ers are in the best position in terms of their strength of schedule.
They have a much softer schedule than the Celtics, Heat and Bucks, but losing to the Bucks would make it interesting.
There is always concern about the 76ers resting center Joel Embiid prior to the NBA playoffs, but we think they’ll want momentum heading into the important stages.
The 76ers are our bet to win the regular season title and their odds will drift to a juicy price should they lose to the Bucks.