NBA

NBA Stretch Run: The Best of the East


Courtesy of Jim Feist


It's been a long haul, this NBA regular season, but the playoffs are just around the corner. So who wins the NBA title? We all know the favorites don't waltz to the NBA Finals. Last year Miami needed to go seven games with up-and-coming Indiana to get there, then had to pull off a miracle in Game 6 to stun the Spurs. Two years ago San Antonio was a No. 1 seed and up 2-0 on the young Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. Then, WHAM, Oklahoma City won 5 in a row to take a 1-0 lead in the Finals. Then, WHAM, Miami won 4 in a row to shell-shock wide-eyed OKC.

Even in college we saw a slew of upsets and surprises, with three No. 1 seeds going down before the Final Four. And didn't Wichita State and tiny Butler make a deep runs I recent years? Butler was a fifth seed in 2010 and a No. 8 seed in 2011, advancing to the NCAA Championship game twice. Three years ago the Dallas Mavericks were the No. 4 seed in the West, then knocked off everyone on the way to a surprising title.

There's another factor that stands out, best summed up in a famous quote: "It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

The speaker? Not a famous coach, but Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. The hard work he was describing about the man "In the Arena" could apply to any NBA star pulling on sneakers and battling for the right to advance to the championship over the next two months.

It takes teamwork and effort, lots of effort, to hoist the crown at the end of a long season. In 2004 and 2008 the Lakers appeared to be the most talented team in the NBA Finals, favored each time, but were knocked around by the hard working Pistons and Celtics, both of whom really earned their rings. Next week I'll take a look at the best of the West, the conference that has won 10 of the last 15 NBA titles. This week, it's the best of the East.

MIAMI HEAT
The defending champs look like the team to beat, but they've been in a battle all year for the top spot with Indiana. A year ago Miami was a powerhouse, ripping off 27 wins in a row, but not so this season. There appears to be age and some cracks in the armor, a team that has stumbled often and has not been impressive on the road.

The Heat is not lacking for star power with 29-year old Lebron James (26.6 ppg, 7 rpg, 6.5 apg), 32-year old Dwyane Wade (19 ppg) and 30-year old Chris Bosh (16.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg).

There are very good role players in Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen. Miami has exceptional balance, 11th in the NBA in scoring, 4th in points allowed. This is still not a good rebounding team and during a three game road trip last month they lost to the Spurs, Rockets and Bulls by 3, 25 and 7 points. Miami looks like the team to beat in the East, but has more vulnerabilities than at any time since LeBron arrived in South Beach.

INDIANA PACERS

Who are these guys? Dominant early, looking like the new power in the East, the erratic Pacers appear to have lost confidence in the second half of the season, blowing games and stumbling on offense. Indiana certainly has the talent to make a postseason run: great defense, rebounding and a big frontcourt. They are 7th in the NBA in rebounding and tops in points allowed. 6-9 David West (13.8 ppg), 6-8 Paul George (21.7 ppg) and 7-2 Roy Hibbert form a dominant front line, while 27-year old PG George Hill (10.6 ppg) runs the backcourt.

The addition of Evan Turner in mid-season seemed to be a huge coup, upgrading the depth, but this team got worse. The main culprit is offense, 24th in the NBA in scoring and prone to some awful scoring droughts. Indiana went on a recent 4-23-1 ATS run and is 6-19-1 ATS against the Eastern Conference. Will they wilt under the playoff spotlight? In 2012 they flamed out to Miami (blowing a 2-1 lead) and last year lost in seven games. Totals players note that the under is 29-11-1 when the Pacers play on one day's rest.

CHICAGO BULLS

A year ago folks in the Windy City were all wondering if star guard Derek Rose will be able to return for the playoffs. It's clear they've moved on from the fragile Rose and despite injuries and personnel changes the Bulls have been very good. Like last year they can't score, 30th in the NBA in scoring, but they rely on slowing the pace down, rebounding and playing a physical defense, 2nd in the league in points allowed.

Chicago is No. 10 in the NBA in rebounds behind Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and hard-working Carlos Boozer. Newcomer Luol Deng provides the offense while Coach Tom Thibedeau demands powerhouse defense on every possession. The Bulls are 18-7-1 ATS against the Eastern Conference and on a 23-8 run under the total at home.

TORONTO RAPTORS

The new kids on the block! No offense, but Toronto took off like a rocket after trading Rudy Gay, who took a lot of shots and didn't hit many. The outstanding backcourt leads the way behind 24-year old 6-7 DeMar DeRozan (22.8 ppg) and 28-year old PG Kyle Lowry (17.4 ppg, 7.6 apg).

Toronto's calling card is defense, 7th in the NBA in points allowed, and top 10 in field goal shooting defense. 21-year old 6-11 Jonas Valanciunas and 26-year old 6-9 Amir Johnson handle the rebounding since the Gay trade. Undervalued Toronto has been on a 34-16-2 ATS run.

For more tips and sports betting information, check out Jim Feist TV


Other Stories

Schedule

Wednesday, April 16Full Scoreboard
Chicago86Final(OT) | Box
Charlotte «91
Indiana «101Final | Box
Orlando86
Washington «118Final | Box
Boston102
Brooklyn85Final | Box
Cleveland «114
Dallas105Final(OT) | Box
Memphis «106
Philadelphia «100Final | Box
Miami87
Atlanta «111Final | Box
Milwaukee103
Utah «136Final(2nd OT) | Box
Minnesota130
Houston100Final | Box
New Orleans «105
Toronto92Final | Box
New York «95
Detroit111Final | Box
Oklahoma City «112
LA Lakers «113Final | Box
San Antonio100
Golden State «116Final | Box
Denver112
LA Clippers104Final | Box
Portland «110
Phoenix «104Final | Box
Sacramento99
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic W L PCT GB Home Away Conf Streak
y-Toronto 48 34 .585 --- 26-15 22-19 32-20 L 1
x-Brooklyn 44 38 .537 4 28-13 16-25 26-26 L 2
New York 37 45 .451 11 19-22 18-23 26-26 W 4
Boston 25 57 .305 23 16-25 9-32 21-31 L 2
Philadelphia 19 63 .232 29 10-31 9-32 14-38 W 2
 
Central W L PCT GB Home Away Conf Streak
y-Indiana 56 26 .683 --- 35-6 21-20 38-14 W 2
x-Chicago 48 34 .585 8 27-14 21-20 35-17 L 1
Cleveland 33 49 .402 23 19-22 14-27 21-31 W 1
Detroit 29 53 .354 27 17-24 12-29 23-29 L 4
Milwaukee 15 67 .183 41 10-31 5-36 12-40 L 3
 
Southeast W L PCT GB Home Away Conf Streak
y-Miami 54 28 .659 --- 32-9 22-19 34-18 L 3
x-Washington 44 38 .537 10 22-19 22-19 33-19 W 4
x-Charlotte 43 39 .524 11 25-16 18-23 30-22 W 3
x-Atlanta 38 44 .463 16 24-17 14-27 28-24 W 1
Orlando 23 59 .280 31 19-22 4-37 17-35 L 4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
2013 - 2014 Western Conference Standings
 
Northwest W L PCT GB Home Away Conf Streak
y-Oklahoma City 59 23 .720 --- 34-7 25-16 36-16 W 1
x-Portland 54 28 .659 5 31-10 23-18 31-21 W 5
Minnesota 40 42 .488 19 24-17 16-25 23-29 L 3
Denver 36 46 .439 23 22-19 14-27 20-32 L 2
Utah 25 57 .305 34 16-25 9-32 13-39 W 1
 
Pacific W L PCT GB Home Away Conf Streak
y-LA Clippers 57 25 .695 --- 34-7 23-18 36-16 L 1
x-Golden State 51 31 .622 6 27-14 24-17 31-21 W 2
Phoenix 48 34 .585 9 26-15 22-19 28-24 W 1
Sacramento 28 54 .341 29 17-24 11-30 15-37 L 1
LA Lakers 27 55 .329 30 14-27 13-28 15-37 W 2
 
Southwest W L PCT GB Home Away Conf Streak
y-San Antonio 62 20 .756 --- 32-9 30-11 38-14 L 2
x-Houston 54 28 .659 8 33-8 21-20 31-21 L 1
x-Memphis 50 32 .610 12 27-14 23-18 29-23 W 5
x-Dallas 49 33 .598 13 26-15 23-18 29-23 L 1
New Orleans 34 48 .415 28 22-19 12-29 15-37 W 2
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
  • NASL: RailHawks vs. Ft. Lauderdale

    Saturday at 7:30 am on WRAL-2

  • PGA: RBC Heritage

    Saturday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • PGA: RBC Heritage

    Sunday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • PGA: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

    Saturday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • MiLB: Durham Bulls vs. Norfolk Tides

    Tonight at 7:05 on 620am

  • MLB: Atlanta Braves at NY Mets

    Saturday at 7:05 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox

    Sunday at 7:05 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHA 91
CHI 86
Final
DUR 6
NOR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR
 
Final
CIN 4
PIT 0
Final
BAL 3
TAM 0
Final
NYY 3
CHC 0
Final
MIL 5
STL 1
Final
ARI 2
NYM 5
Final
PHI 0
ATL 1
Final
NYY 2
CHC 0
Final
DET 2
CLE 3
Final
MIA 3
WAS 6
Final
TEX 3
SEA 2
Final
CWS 4
BOS 6
Final
HOU 4
KAN 6
8:10pm Wednesday
MIN 0
TOR 0
Final
ANA 5
OAK 4
Final
SDP 4
COL 2
Final
SFG 2
LOS 1
1:05pm Today
PHI
ATL
 
1:08pm Today
DET
CLE
 
1:10pm Today
MIN
TOR
 
2:05pm Today
TEX
SEA
 
3:45pm Today
SFG
LOS
 
6:40pm Tonight
SDP
COL
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
 
7:05pm Tonight
WAS
STL
 
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
NYY
 
7:10pm Tonight
MIN
TOR
 
8:10pm Tonight
CWS
BOS
 
8:10pm Tonight
HOU
KAN
 
Final
CHA 91
CHI 86
Final
ORL 86
IND 101
Final
MIL 103
ATL 111
Final
CLE 114
BRK 85
Final
MEM 106
DAL 105
Final
OKC 112
DET 111
Final
NOP 105
HOU 100
Final
SAN 100
LAL 113
Final
MIA 87
PHI 100
Final
NYK 95
TOR 92
Final
MIN 130
UTA 136
Final
BOS 102
WAS 118
Final
DEN 112
GSW 116
Final
POR 110
LAC 104
Final
SAC 99
PHO 104
Final
TAM 4
MON 5
Final
PIT 4
CLB 3
Final
ANA 4
DAL 3
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
PHI
8:00pm Tonight
STL
CHI
9:30pm Tonight
COL
MIN
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
LOS
Final
DUR 6
NOR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR