Are the Sixers the best team in the East?
The Raptors and Celtics were the best two teams in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, but they have struggled so far in the playoffs. The Celtics have dealt with a ridiculous number of injuries, while the Raptors have maybe reverted to their underachieving selves from the past couple series. The Wizards and Bucks could topple them.
The Cavaliers have not “turned on the switch,” and are locked into a close 2-2 series with the Indiana Pacers. They’ve looked as disorganized and shaky as ever. It’s not impossible for all three franchises to fall in the first round.
The Sixers beat the Heat convincingly in five, and will probably be the favorites against either the Celtics or Bucks. With Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid playing so well, they’ll be a tough out for anybody in the East, and could make the Finals.
I wouldn’t choose them to come out of the East, but it’s really a free-for-all right now. I still think the Raptors are the favorites, but LeBron could also figure out how to get his team behind him. Anything can happen!
The Thunder and Timberwolves seem done
The Wolves have fought hard, but weird coaching decisions, a lack of spacing, and a talent gap have left them down 3-1 to the Rockets. They’ve had some answers for Houston’s offense, but it wasn’t enough.
The Thunder are also down 3-1, but their collapse is a little more surprising. The Thunder team supposedly geared for the playoffs has fallen apart, with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony underperforming. Paul George seems destined to leave, and the team has a depressing future ahead.
The Jazz seem poised to challenge the Rockets. Their defense is truly elite, while Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles have done enough offensively. We’ll see if their defense can contain the Rockets’ spread offense: I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the Jazz take the Rockets to seven games, or even win the series.
The Warriors will take on the Pelicans, and I am of the opinion that it won’t be that close. But the rest of the playoffs are unpredictable, and the end result is far less obvious than in recent years.