The Eastern Conference standings are incredibly compact at the moment. Just 1.5 games separate the second-place Milwaukee Bucks from the fifth-place Cleveland Cavaliers. It seems like that tightness can’t last, that one team is destined to rise above while another will certainly tumble.
FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model doesn’t think so; they are predicting just one game to separate those four teams at the end of the season. Their RAPTOR projections have the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks finishing 50-32, while the Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets are at 49-33. Also interesting is that they predict the Cavaliers to finish with the second-best point differential of the group at +3.7.
If those predictions hold serve, the Cavs and Nets will be tied for fourth / fifth and play each other in the first round. If Kevin Durant is healthy that’s an incredibly difficult task for a team with comparatively little playoff experience. All of these teams will be fighting to finish in the Top 3 to avoid playing one of the others in Roud 1, although if the Miami Heat are lurking in sixth it doesn’t get much better.
The top of the East is absolutely loaded, and while the Western Conference is still in chaos, a tier of teams has emerged in the East. The Cavs are projected to finish right alongside these other contenders, a spot they have earned this season.
More Cavs news
The Golden State Warriors have been one of the league’s best home teams and one of its worst road teams. That was already set up to give Cleveland the advantage in their matchup tonight. But last night, the Warriors played the Boston Celtics and went all-out to try and win in overtime, with the core players all logging heavy minutes. Klay Thompson will sit on the back end of the back-to-back, but with the long, difficult game it’s that much more likely Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will join him in taking the night off. Even if they do play, their legs will not be fresh.
The Cleveland Cavaliers know that they need to upgrade their shooting, but there are a lot of potential trade targets to choose from. On the site this morning John Suchan looks at three players that the Cavs could potentially trade for to upgrade their shooting.
The NBA played a game in Paris, France yesterday, an easy win for the Chicago Bulls over the Detroit Pistons. Presumed No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama was in attendance and may have been watching some of his future teammates on the Pistons.
As we discussed above, the Warriors lost in overtime to the Boston Celtics, with Jayson Tatum going for 34 points and 19 (!) rebounds, while the Minnesota Timberwolves won a tight game over the Toronto Raptors as they inch back closer to the playoff bracket. The Brooklyn Nets lost in Phoenix to fall into a tie with the Cavs, while the Philadelphia 76ers won in Portland to stay a game up.
Coming up: The Warriors and Cavaliers will play tonight at 7:30 PM ET.