Gaming and E-sports

3 NBA teams rising, 3 teams falling ahead of the 2022 playoffs

The NBA All-Star break is meant to signify the halfway level of the season, however in actuality it marks the start of the stretch run earlier than the playoffs. Most groups had already performed greater than 70 p.c of their video games by the point the season paused for All-Star Weekend. Meaning each recreation of the “second half” is essential each for playoff seeding and discovering the correct mix within the rotation earlier than the postseason begins.

The league schedule popping out of the All-Star break has felt much more necessary this 12 months due to the flurry of exercise on the commerce deadline. The Philadelphia 76ers have been welcoming James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets have been attempting to get Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons wholesome, and groups just like the Celtics and Pelicans have been integrating main items within the backcourt.

It feels just like the title image is broad open this season, and the primary week of video games popping out of the break has supplied much more proof of which groups ought to be feared, and which groups might need peaked too early. Listed here are three groups rising and three groups falling out of the All-Star break.

3 NBA groups rising after the All-Star break

Philadelphia 76ers

There was a wholesome quantity of skepticism when the Sixers pulled off a large commerce for Harden on the deadline. Harden had not seemed as explosive as he sometimes does throughout his time with the Nets this 12 months, and his scoring had fallen off. How would he match alongside one other ball dominant celebrity in Joel Embiid? How dedicated would he be after primarily quitting on two straight groups?

Up to now, Harden seems to be superb by means of his first three video games. We named the Sixers the largest winner of the commerce deadline, and prediction seems to be lifeless on thus far. Will it final?

Harden is averaging 27.3 factors, 12.3 assists, and 9 rebounds per recreation since he placed on a Sixers’ uniform, numbers which might be near being in step with the most effective of his profession averages. He appears to have slightly extra pop on his drives to the rim, and his passing within the pick-and-roll has been an enormous assist for Embiid and the remainder of his teammates to date. It’s additionally price noting that the Sixers have performed the Knicks twice and the Timberwolves as soon as on this stretch, and the schedule is about to get much more troublesome.

Philly positively seems to be prefer it has an opportunity to achieve the NBA Finals this 12 months with Harden and Embiid main the best way. Simply don’t anticipate it to at all times be this simple. How will Harden reply when adversity hits? That’s only one factor to observe the remainder of the season.

Boston Celtics

For the reason that calendar turned to 2022, the Celtics have the league’s No. 1 protection by a large margin. They added one other key defensive piece on the commerce deadline by buying guard Derrick White from the Spurs, a lockdown level of assault defender who additionally gives fast ball motion and a few capturing on the offensive finish.

Whereas many have been fast to write down Boston off after a gradual begin, they’re immediately wanting like probably the most formidable groups within the East. The Celtics are 4-1 out of the All-Star break, headlined by a win over the mighty Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. Boston now sits No. 5 within the East they usually’re solely two video games again of the No. 2 seed.

The Celtics have two isolation scorers in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who’re excellent for playoff basketball. They’ve a dominant protection and an improved bench. Additionally they have younger massive man in Robert Williams who appears like he may very well be a breakout star within the postseason if he can keep wholesome. Boston is legitimately scary.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz have been struggling when Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have been in-and-out of the lineup in Jan. and Feb. It ought to be no shock that Utah has seemed glorious since getting its two stars again after the All-Star break.

The Jazz have received 9 of their final 10 video games, together with a 3-0 mark out of the break with wins over Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston. The streak has pushed Utah inside three video games of Golden State Warriors for the No. 2 seed. Abruptly, that is once more beginning to appear to be the group that completed with the NBA’s greatest document and greatest internet ranking final season.

The Jazz’s beginning 5 has been large, and Danuel Home has supplied some capturing and protection off the bench. Final 12 months’s postseason run was tanked by accidents to Mitchell and Mike Conley, and if each are on the prime of their recreation this 12 months, Utah shall be a tricky matchup for anybody.

We’re nonetheless slightly skeptical of the Jazz’s postseason possibilities within the West due to their shaky perimeter protection, however there ought to be little query this group has a puncher’s likelihood to achieve the NBA Finals if the whole lot clicks.

3 NBA groups falling after the All-Star break

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have been at or close to the highest of the East all season, however the mixture of ongoing harm points and a troublesome schedule is beginning to meet up with the group. After successful 5 straight video games going into the All-Star break and beating Atlanta to begin the symbolic second half, the Bulls have now misplaced three straight to the Grizzlies, Warmth, and Hawks. The schedule doesn’t get any simpler from right here.

The Bulls are nonetheless with out Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball, and the protection has tanked due to it. Chicago had a top-10 unit earlier than Grayson Allen took out Caruso in mid-air, and now they’ve fallen all the best way to No. 20 on that finish of the ground. Zach LaVine can also be enjoying by means of a knee harm that has made him a bit tentative to assault the rim. DeMar DeRozan’s late recreation shot-making has been saving the Bulls all 12 months, however it’s exhausting to win in opposition to good groups when his supporting forged is struggling to get stops.

So long as Ball and Caruso come again wholesome, the Bulls ought to be able to go within the playoffs. It’s simply honest to surprise what seed they’ll in the end get after what’s shaping as much as be a troublesome finish of the common season.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have been anointed title favorites after a robust begin to the 12 months, however nothing has come simple for Golden State for the reason that calendar flipped to 2022. Stephen Curry is a in extended capturing stoop knocked him far off the MVP favourite standing he as soon as held. Klay Thompson is again within the lineup, however he understandably has but to regain his former degree defensively. The largest motive for the Warriors’ decline is the absence of Draymond Inexperienced, who has been out for the reason that center of Jan. with a again harm.

The Warriors are 1-3 out of the All-Star break with two losses to Dallas and one to the Timberwolves. Inexperienced is reportedly a “couple weeks” from returning. Getting him again to 100% could be the one most necessary swing issue within the NBA title image.

If Draymond is at his greatest, the Warriors nonetheless have an opportunity to win all of it. If not, you surprise if Golden State will remorse not dealing a few of their younger items for win-now veterans on the commerce deadline. This core solely has so many good years left, and failing to maximise a championship window could be a large disappointment.

Los Angeles Lakers

Bear in mind when the Lakers have been pegged as preseason championship favorites? Whoops.

LA’s nightmare season is barely getting extra embarrassing popping out of the All-Star break. The Lakers have now misplaced seven of their final eight, together with a number of defeats by the hands of a Kawhi Leonard and Paul George-less Clippers group and a pathetic efficiency in a loss to the Pelicans. Anthony Davis is injured once more, the Russell Westbrook experiment has been a catastrophe, and head coach Frank Vogel appears like he’ll be fired as quickly because the season ends.

The Lakers are losing one other good LeBron James season. How LA plans to repair this dumpster fireplace shall be one of many offseason’s greatest tales. This 12 months’s group seems to be totally cooked.

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