The top three teams in the NBA’s Atlantic Division — the Celtics, Knicks and 76ers — all appear playoff bound. The Sixers are the only team yet to clinch a playoff berth, but they hold a three game lead over the ninth place Bucks with just four left to play. With their playoff seeds seemingly secure, these teams are now looking ahead to the playoffs.
On April 18, after a win over the Orlando Magic, the Boston Celtics clinched the Atlantic Division for the fifth straight year and essentially secured the fourth seed in the playoffs. The team has played phenomenally well in the second half of the season, but their biggest question mark is whether they will be healthy and rested come playoff time. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus all stayed behind to nurse injuries as the rest of the team traveled to Atlanta to play the Hawks on Friday. It’s highly unlikely that Doc Rivers will ask much of his rotation in the final stretch of the season. He just wants his veteran team fresh for a playoff run.
The emergence of Avery Bradley, has to be exciting for the Celtics staff. Bradley is a defensive standout and has averaged nearly 15 points a game and shot over 50 percent from the field in his last 16 games. The only issue this raises is how Ray Allen will handle his transition to the bench during the playoffs. Allen is a classy professional, but he had to have been disappointed by the fact that the Celtics tried to trade him at the deadline. It is very likely that the 36-year-old Allen will not be on the Celtics next season, but if the all-time leader in three pointers can embrace his role as a sixth man, he might have a chance to go out on top.
Despite the questions surrounding the health of some of their key players Paul Pierce looks to be getting hot at the right time while playing through a toe injury of his own. In his last two games he has scored 43 and 29 points while his teammates were injured. If this team is healthy and rested, the will be a very tough out in the playoffs, and could possibly contend for a title.
The New York Knicks have had a roller coaster season, but they finally clinched a playoff berth on Thursday after a Milwaukee Bucks loss. Lately the Knicks have also been a very hot team, going 15-5 under interim coach Mike Woodson, and have played most of these games without Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire. They also have four games to catch the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic, whom they trail by three games, and the Knicks control the tiebreaker.
Another good sign for the Knicks is that Amar’e Stoudemire is close to returning. Stoudemire is expected to return on Friday night after being out since March 24 with a bulging disc in his back. His return should boost a Knicks team that had been playing well without him. Not only will the team benefit from his added production, but Carmelo Anthony can move from power forward back to his natural position of small forward and the struggling Landry Fields can also be taken out of the starting lineup.
The hot play of Carmelo is another encouraging sign for the Knicks. Without Lin and Stoudemire, Anthony has averaged 32 points and shot over 50 percent from the field in the month of April. If he can carry his elevated game into the playoffs, the Knicks will be a dangerous team.
New York and Boston’s recent ascents in the Eastern Conference standings have come at the expense of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The biggest question mark for New York as they prepare for the playoffs is at point guard. Turmoil at this position has surrounded the Knicks all season, and with the return of Jeremy Lin unlikely, someone is going to have to step up. Shockingly enough, Mike Bibby could wind up starting for the Knicks in the playoffs if Baron Davis isn’t healthy. Bibby was awful last season in the playoffs and has barely played this season, yet he has started for Woodson before when the two were in Atlanta and the coach seems to trust him. On Wednesday Bibby recorded eight points and eight assists in place of the injured Davis. Regardless of who starts for the Knicks at point guard, it looks as though the position could be a liability for the team heading into the playoffs.
New York and Boston’s recent ascents in the Eastern Conference standings have come at the expense of the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers were filled with promise after a hot start to the season, but their early season peak is now a distant memory. They have a 3-7 record in April and have yet to clinch a spot in the playoffs with just four games left. Despite a breakout 24-point performance by Jrue Holiday on Wednesday, the Sixers look to be limping into the playoffs. Unless they suddenly got hot for, their stint in the postseason could end very quickly.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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