Playoff Race: Bubble Trouble in the East
Words by: Jordan Rivas – NBAline
As promised yours truly is back to bring you the breakdown on the Eastern Conference playoff race. Outside of Miami and Detroit, the West has always been predominant over its East coast counterpart. The two halves of this feature reflect that as much as anything; as oppose to the look at the Western Conference where you’re talking about plus .500 teams, none of the teams on this list can lay claim to even an equal win/lose measure. Even so, a playoff birth, regardless of which conference you’re in, is big. So lets get to it…
Holding On –
The Webber trade was meant to be the added ingredient in a 76ers championship recipe, instead the Sixers have gone just 9-8 since acquiring Webber from Sacramento. Not like 9-8 is horrible, but hardly the major upgrade they were hoping would place them into contention in the East. Since arriving in Philly, Webber has averaged just 15.8 points per game on under 40 percent shooting, that’s six points lower than his career average and what he was averaging in Sacto. Rebounds and assists have also gone down. Nevertheless, the heap of Philly’s problems can’t be placed on Webber alone. Even with his production down, C-Webb is still the second most productive player on the Philadelphia roster. After Iverson and Webber, next highest scorer on the team is Marc Jackson with 11.8 a game. And while the Sixers have a young group of players that could be something special down the road (Iguodala, Dalembert, Willie Green, and Kyle Korver), Webber (32) and Iverson (30) aren’t exactly on the same timetable. Down the road if some of the 76ers youth pay out that’s great, but this year will be like many past, in the hands of Allen Iverson. AI is already having possibly the best year of his career and knowing the kind of competitor Iverson is, you can bet on seeing Philly in the playoffs.
On the Outside Looking In –
New Jersey Nets:
Unlike the Webber trade in Philly, the blockbuster trade pulled by Rod Thorn and the Nets has added exactly what they wanted – added wins and excitement in Jersey. In coming from the Raptors to the Nets, Carter has upped his numbers in every statistical category except blocks (.75 in Toronto and .63 in Jersey). Since his first game in a Nets uniform Carter has averaged 26.6 points per to go with six boards and just under five assists a game. Most importantly the addition of Carter has catapulted the Nets in to playoff contention. Since his arrival the Nets have gone 26-21, compared to 9-17 before the trade. The All-Star combo of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter has been working wonders for the Nets, and with Nenad Krstic starting to emerge, this team may be peaking at the right time. In his last ten games, VC has averaged nearly 30 points per game on 50 percent shooting, and the Nets have gone 8-2 over that stretch. If the play of Carter and Kidd continues, we could see the Nets overtaking the Sixers to break into the Playoffs.
Although Grant Hill is back to being healthy and being an All-Star, the similarities between the Grant Hill of now, and the Grant Hill of old probably stop there. Replacing the power jams are silky smooth jumpers and we generally see a smarter, savvier, albeit less explosive Grant Hill. One similarity that remains: Hill is still a good player on a bad team. In the East, however, that usually means you’re in playoff contention. The Magic, despite a 34-38 record, are just a game behind Philly for the eight and final playoff spot in the East. The team has had its struggles over the season, and their resent seven-game losing trend hasn’t helped their playoffs hopes. In addition the Magic’s remaining 12 games include trips to Dallas and Detroit, as well as home contests against Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, Miami, and a second bout with Detroit in the month, the second coming at home. Pulling out a slump to make the playoffs is tough enough, against that kind of schedule… well, you do the math.
(all stats and win/lose totals are accurate as of the time of submission to the site)
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