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Spartan Scoop

Spartan Scoop

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Spartan Scoop


A review of the contenders in each conference
Jaylen Brown has been a leader for the Celtics
Wikimedia Commons
Jaylen Brown has been a leader for the Celtics

Around the NBA, teams are fighting harder than ever for spots in the playoffs. Some teams are winning this fight, and others aren’t. Some are all but eliminated already. The NBA is ramping up in the last third of the season, and the fans are left wondering who will make the cut.

Starting in the Western Conference, there has yet to be a clear conference winner. The Timberwolves and Thunder have been going back and forth in first place for the past couple of weeks. They each have 7 wins out of their last 10 games and are about as even as two teams can get. They have gone 2-2 against each other so far this season, with neither team having a clear edge. The Thunder are only ahead by half a game, and the Timberwolves could take back the number 1 spot at almost any time. 

Another team contending for the number 1 spot in the West is the Nuggets. They are also only half of a game back from first place and are just under the Timberwolves. Unlike the Timberwolves though, the Nuggets have won all 6 of their last 6 games. The Timberwolves are on a losing streak of 2 and are in danger of dropping even below 2nd place if they aren’t careful. 

The teams that will likely advance to the playoffs are the Thunder, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Pelicans, and Kings (the top 6 teams are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs). The Kings are at 6th in the West right now, but they have a relatively easy schedule coming up, and they may even jump up to 5th within the next 2 weeks. The Suns, Mavericks, Warriors, and Lakers are the teams that will most likely have to compete in the play-in tournament for their last chance to have a shot at the title. The Lakers are at the 10 spot (for all you Lakers fans), but they aren’t in any real danger of dropping down soon. The Lakers are 33-29 on the season, and the team at the 11 spot (the Jazz) is 27-34. The Lakers are 5.5 games ahead of the Jazz, so they have a cushion protecting them from falling for a while. The Lakers will likely have a chance to play-in to the tournament. 

Now for the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are the clear leader of the Eastern Conference. They have an impressive record so far of 48-12, and an 80% winning percentage. They have won their last 11 games in a row, and are showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. They are 8.5 games ahead of the 2nd spot, so they have built a safety net for themselves throughout the season. They have only lost 3 games at home this season, which is by far the least of any team. When they play in Boston, they’re almost unstoppable. On the other hand, they are 19-9 in away games. This is still a good record, but they prefer playing at home. 

The Celtics are almost a lock for the 1 seed in the East, and if they can secure it in the next couple of weeks, they will get home-court advantage throughout the entire end-of-season tournament. The Celtics are going to keep playing hard in these next couple of weeks to make sure that they get the coveted home-court advantage that comes with being the 1 seed.

They have won their last 5 games in a row.

The Milwaukee Bucks are also a great team again this year. They are 2nd in the East with a record of 40-21, but they are only half a game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks have also been turning it on lately, trying to make a last-minute run for their shot at the 1 seed in the East, or simply trying to pull away from the Cavs. They have won their last 5 games in a row. 

So the Celtics are good, but what makes them that good? They have a roster packed with talent and an excellent coach in Joe Mazulla. On their roster, they have Jayson Tatum (who is averaging 27 points per game), Jaylen Brown (who is averaging 22.5 points per game), and Kristaps Porziņģis who is averaging more than 20 points per game. Their star-studded roster has led them to be the best teams in the league, and one of the best teams in recent NBA history. 

At this point, the teams with the best chances of adding another banner in their stadium are the Celtics, Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Thunder. The Celtics have been disappointing to their fans in recent years. Their regular season is typically flashy and makes fans optimistic, but the Celtics lose when it matters the most. This year though, they might just have a team that can take them all the way. They are so far ahead of the competition in the Eastern Conference that it’s very likely that we will see them in the NBA finals. The most important question now is who will meet them there? 

Another debate in the NBA has been around some of the end-of-season honors. These discussions have centered around the Defensive Player Of the Year (DPOY) award, in particular. Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert are the two favorites to win, with Gobert edging Wembanyama but a small margin. 

Many fans say that this is unfair though. Wembanyama is leading the leage in stocks (the steals and blocks category combined) by an enormous margin. The gap between him and 2nd place is larger than the gap between 2nd and 50th place for stocks. He is averaging 3.4 blocks per game right now, leading the league. He had a streak of 7 games with 4 or more blocks, an astounding feat matched only by Shaquille O’Neil. Fans have expressed that Wembanyama deserves the DPOY award, despite him being a rookie. 

Down the stretch, Wembanyama will get better and better, and soon he and the Spurs will be the contenders for the finals. But right now, the Celtics and Nuggets are center-stage.

About the Contributor
Sam Maney
"Sports is life" -Sam