Fighting For That 8th Spot

8th spotBy Stefan Anderson

The NBA Playoffs are less than ten games away and teams are still fighting for the remaining spots left for postseason, and it makes everything a little more interesting. Let’s take a look at the race for the eighth and final spot in.

In the Western Conference, Oklahoma City appears to have a grip on the final spot with a current three game lead over New Orleans. The Thunder should be able to hold on with the superior play of Russell Westbrook, who has no plans on slowing down anytime soon, especially with the loss of Kevin Durant for the remainder of the season.

But in the East, on the other hand has a real jigsaw, with a game and a half separating four teams; Brooklyn, Charlotte, Indiana and the current 8-seed Boston. With 8 games remaining these four teams will have no choice but to leave everything on the floor.

The road will not be easier for any of the teams as each one of these teams face 5 playoff teams in their remaining 8 games.

However, Charlotte has the best the opportunity to control their own destiny as they have an head to head with Indiana on April 3rd, and face higher seeds like Toronto and Atlanta who can look to rest their starters to gear up for the postseason.

Indiana, despite last night loss to Brooklyn still has a stretch where they have to face Boston, Charlotte, Miami followed by the Knicks and the Pistons. If the Pacers could find a way to take 3 or more wins could play a big part to conquer the 8th seed.

Brooklyn has the toughest schedule out of the four teams where they have the Knicks but then have a gauntlet of games Toronto, Atlanta twice, Portland, Washington, Milwaukee, Chicago and concluding the season versus Orlando.

Boston has the driver seat currently and has to find a way to win games against similar opponents as they see the same teams Cleveland, Toronto and Milwaukee for 6 of their final 8 and not to mention the head to head with Indiana.

It won’t be easy feat for easy for any of the teams as they fight their way to have the luxury of facing the overwhelming, steady attacking Atlanta Hawks, but that’s what the NBA is no nights off.

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NBA Preview: Central Division

centralBy Stefan Anderson

The Central Division brought the Eastern Conference’s best team last season and brought great competition amongst its members. With former MVP’s returning, new coaches and budding stars the Central Division should get interesting this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Return of the King, David Blatt and his new European style of coaching and Kevin Love, the Cavs look like they are built to take the Eastern Conference and potentially the NBA Championship. The Cavs still lack a rim protector but their offensive so overpowering that a true big would be overshadowed. Dion Waiters is poised to have a great season playing with great talent with James, Love and Irving.

The Cavs should be in a great position, but with injury prone players like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love who have yet to play a full 82 game season yet, could put a heavy work load on the King once again.

Chicago Bulls

Doug McDermott, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, the emergence of Taj  Gibson and Jimmy Butler, Chicago has assembled a surrounding cast to go along their premier players Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose.  The Bulls are the other favorite out of the East, and their battles with Cleveland should be legendary this season.

Those regular season and postseason battle between them Cleveland should determine who represents the Eastern Conference in the Finals.

Detroit Pistons

Under the Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons experiment should see brighter days this season.  Pending what happens with 3 big men they shuffle through (Smith, Monroe, and Drummond); the roster should be back at a normal state. Look out for Andre Drummond to become the next prominent big man in the league and either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith to be traded by the Trade Deadline. Role players like Caron Butler and Jodie Meeks will have an impact in SVG’s system.

I believe this is the year that Detroit returns to the playoffs this year and can build off of it for seasons to come.

Indiana Pacers

With their star Paul George injured for the season, the departure of Lance Stephenson, what is next for the Pacers this season? Their locker room leader David West , is on record saying that would not contend this season, what does Indiana expect to achieve this season? Look for Chris Copeland to score a lot of points as he is known to do, and can Roy Hibbert look like the player everyone expects to him to be.

I do not see the Pacers returning to the postseason this year due to their various issues personnel wise but things can turn around but I don’t see it happening.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak, prolific shot blocker Larry Sanders and the NBA’s newest star Jabari Parker, the Bucks have a great future ahead of them. Unfortunately for them ,they will have a lot of problems playing the Central Division. With new head coach Jason Kidd, it gives him a fresh start and opportunity to give guidance to the young talent in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are a season or two away from reaching the success they envision once again, but will be one of the scariest teams in the future.

Central Division Standings:

  1. Cavs (Playoff Team)
  2. Bulls (Playoff Team)
  3. Pistons (Playoff Team)
  4. Pacers
  5. Bucks

It’s Marathon Not a Sprint

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By Stefan Anderson

As most runner that run long distance would tell, it’s all about pacing yourself. Ironically the Indiana Pacers have failed to do so. After being defeated by the Miami Heat in the 2012 playoffs in 6 games, they bounced back and stretched the series out one more game in Eastern Conference Finals, but failed to finish the Heat and watched the Heat win their second consecutive title. Following last year’s defeat in the playoffs, the Pacers believed that if they hosted the game 7 of series it would have been a different outcome, making it a priority to earn this year’s top seed in the East.

Starting from the offseason the plan was in full implantation for the upcoming season.

After acquiring Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland, the Pacers stacked up their bench and went forth with executing their plan. The Pacers came out the gates hot this season, holding on the top seed and holding the best record in NBA for a good amount of time. Indiana was on course to complete the task, the emergence of Paul George blossoming into a superstar and force to compete with the league’s biggest star Lebron James.

But the trade deadline came about.

After reaching higher heights without their once franchise player Danny Granger, they decided to trade Granger for a younger, athletic swingman in Evan Turner, to give their team more weapons to put an end to Miami’s dreams of a three peat.  Also signing the inconsistent but valuable when healthy Andrew Bynum, they were poised to continue their reign and win the Eastern Conference as planned.

Then the plan backfired.

Since trading away Danny Granger, the Pacers have been 10-13 including losing 7 of their last 10 games.  The Pacers find themselves in a familiar but uncomfortable position chasing the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Was Granger that much of a factor for Indiana? Maybe but I believe that Indiana’s has more than chemistry issues. Granger, has been good asset for Indiana since being drafted but has seen a decline in the past few years and has lost role due to injuries.

Therefore, I do not believe that he is the main reason for their recent loses and that it comes from continuity. The Pacers with their new additions and more depth on the bench, puts Coach Frank Vogel in a tough spot to adjust to his new players along bringing them into the rotation. Now after having a set amount minutes for each player, while keeping starters at the same minute total, a very complex situation to say the least.

The Pacers are not totally out of their place, because of their consistent defense and physical style of play that holds teams just over 90 points a game. They have fared great amongst the good teams in the NBA and the East as well, splitting with the Bulls and could win the season series with the Heat if they win on Friday. The Pacers are still in a great position, but have to play with a chip on their shoulder and should be very interesting to watch in the playoffs as the season comes to a close.