Like the Rockets in the Western Conference, the Raptors entered the All-Star break on a hot streak that allowed them to claim the No. 1 seed in the East. With Toronto on a seven-game winning streak and Boston having lost three in a row, the 41-16 Raps now have a two-game cushion on the 40-19 Celtics.
While the Raptors currently hold the top spot in the East, they’re not a lock to hang onto it the rest of the way. The Celtics figure to bounce back, particularly when Marcus Smart returns to their lineup. And the Cavaliers aren’t going anywhere either — after a midseason swoon, a series of deadline-day trades have revitalized the Cavs, who have won four in a row to increase their record to 34-22, 6.5 games back of Toronto.
It would take a major slump for the Raptors to give up a 6.5-game lead with just 25 to play, but if that slump happens, we probably shouldn’t rule out teams like the Wizards (33-24), Pacers (33-25), and Bucks (32-25) either. Still, those clubs are very long shots for the No. 1 seed. The race for the top spot in the East looks like it will come down to three teams — and possibly just two if the Cavs dug too deep a hole during the first half.
Unlike in the West, where the Rockets and Warriors have been just as successful on the road as at home, a pair of top Eastern contenders have been much better when they’ve had home-court advantage. The Raptors have an NBA-best 24-4 mark at home, compared to 17-12 on the road. The Cavs, meanwhile, are 20-7 in home games and having a losing record (14-15) as visitors. Claiming the No. 1 seed and gaining home-court advantage throughout the playoffs could be a huge factor for those teams.
What do you think? Will the Raptors hang onto the No. 1 seed? Will the Celtics reclaim it? Will the new-look Cavs go on a hot streak to get back in the race to the top? Vote below in our poll and then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!
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