Barring a major second-half swoon, the Bucks won’t give up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season. At 38-6, Milwaukee is on pace to win over 70 games and currently has an eight-game cushion over the next-best team in the conference.
While the race for the top seed in the East may already be over, a fascinating race is developing for the No. 2 spot. With six potential contenders in the conference, the importance of nabbing that second seed shouldn’t be understated. Not only would it set up a first-round matchup against a less dangerous opponents like the Magic or Nets, it would also mean avoiding the Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals and holding home court advantage for two rounds.
As we enter the second half of the season, the Heat currently hold the second seed, but the margin is extremely tight. Here’s what the standings look like for the five teams vying for the No. 2 seed, entering today’s action:
- Miami Heat (29-13)
- Toronto Raptors (28-14)
- Boston Celtics (27-14)
- Indiana Pacers (28-15)
- Philadelphia 76ers (28-16)
All five teams are separated by just two games, so one hot or cold streak could have a significant impact on seeding. Just ask the Celtics, who could fall out of the top four tonight for the first time since October if their current losing streak extends to four games.
With a real incentive tied to claiming the No. 2 seed, the second-half race among these five teams should be fascinating. The Raptors finally have a healthy roster, and the Pacers will be getting star guard Victor Oladipo back next week. The Sixers have been shakier than expected all year long, but showed their upside on Christmas Day when they dismantled the Bucks. The Celtics and the Heat are in position to potentially upgrade their rosters at the trade deadline if they so choose.
Of course, we should also consider each team’s second-half schedule. According to Tankathon.com, the Heat, Sixers, and Raptors have three of the NBA’s easiest remaining slates, while the Pacers’ schedule ranks in the middle of the pack and the Celtics’ is the eighth-hardest.
What do you think? Which of these five teams do you like best to finish the season strong and claim the No. 2 seed in the East?
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