The NBA All-Star Weekend is over and it’s time for teams to start digging in for the second half of the season. There’s no sense in looking back at what has happened so far, and teams across the league have to tighten up if they want to be seen in the playoffs. Tonight marks the first night of second-half games, and there is a lot to look forward to.
The Milwaukee Bucks have had an epic run this year and are undeniably the best team found in the Eastern Conference. They have a winning percentage of .852 and are close to a pace for 70 wins. This hasn’t been seen since the 2015 season, when the Golden State Warriors reached 70, and hadn’t been seen for 20 years prior to that. If the Bucks make smart decisions from this point forward, they can become a history-making team. To help try and make that happen, the Bucks can now count on Marvin Williams, who was signed during the break.
The Warriors haven’t had a decent run like that of 2015 lately, and things turned even worse this year. Klay Thompson is out for ACL surgery and Kevin Durant headed to the Brooklyn Nets. That left Stephen Curry as the team’s major power, but, as luck would have it, he was injured just as the season was getting underway. Curry is expected to come back during the second half of the season, but not to try to help the Warriors make it to the playoffs – that ship has sailed.
Instead, as head coach Steve Kerr puts it, “He’s perfectly healthy. If the point is he might get hurt, what’s the point of ever playing anybody? I guess the argument is we’re not making the playoffs. So, are we not trying to entertain our fans?”
When the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers faced off in their first game of the season, the Clippers walked away with a surprise win. The Lakers have been able to bounce back somewhat since then, but the two LA teams are in a battle for an appearance in the Western Conference finals. It could be both, if they can figure out how to stop the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets, and a rematch of the season opener would certainly be welcome by the Lakers. If there is one, the Clippers are going to come with a new weapon, Reggie Jackson.
There are 12 teams that can essentially write off their chances of making a postseason appearance. The Philadelphia 76ers are not one of these, despite a dismally poor record. However, they’re still hanging on by a thread and could see at least a little improvement coming up. Al Horford was supposed to bring good things to the table, but has underperformed. Therefore, he has been downgraded on the roster, and the Sixers – eyeing a wild card spot – are hopeful that a new lineup will be the motivation the team needs.
Philadelphia is in the running with four other Eastern Conference teams vying for a place in the postseason bracket. The Bucks, provided there is no major screwup, are in, and the remaining three are going to come scratching and clawing during the second half. The Toronto Raptors are slightly behind the Bucks, followed by the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.
At this point in the season, it no longer is just a question of making it to the postseason; it’s also about seeding. Making a couple of strategic losses could actually work to a team’s advantage, allowing it to appear deeper in the playoffs when things get started.